On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Monthly Self Checks All Men Should Do

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that over half of all men have failed to see a doctor in the past year.

While they may feel well or think they are healthy, neglecting their yearly screenings is one of the reasons men have a higher death rate than women. In fact, on average they die five years earlier.

While scheduling a yearly check-up with a doctor is vital, men can also take charge of their health by doing quick self-exams at home, so they can learn what’s “normal” for their bodies and what isn’t.

Dr. Hieu Nguyen at INTEGRIS agrees. He says self-checks should never replace professional health care, but men should be more proactive about knowing their bodies. The lack of knowledge about what self-checks men should be doing also concerns him.

“It is mostly due to lack of education on the topic. I also believe it’s something men often feel embarrassed discussing with their doctors or their partners,” says Dr. Nguyen. “This can lead to unnecessary worrying, or a delay in seeking medical evaluation and care.”

Are testicular self-checks needed?

While somewhat rare, testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men ages 15-34.

Self-checks do not take the place of regular doctor physicals and screenings. “The American Cancer Society recommends monthly self-checks if the patient has an increased risk,” said Dr. Nguyen. “These risk factors include cryptorchidism, a family history of testicular cancer or a personal history of previous testicular cancer.”

The US Preventive Service Task Force concludes there is moderate certainty that screening for testicular cancer has no net benefit. This is due to the cancer being fairly treatable, even in advanced disease.

“The self-test is not recommended for every man. However, I feel that men should learn what is normal and what isn’t, so they can avoid unnecessary medical costs and unnecessary worry,” Dr. Nguyen says. If you want to learn more about how to do a testicular self-exam, visit the American Cancer Society website.

Belly fat test 

Obesity is a major health issue for Americans. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one in three adults is considered obese. About one in 13 adults is considered extremely obese.

Obesity leads to a plethora of health problems, including risks for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Belly fat, hidden under the skin and muscle, is a good indicator of how much risk you may face.

For men, a waist measurement of 40 inches or more could spell trouble. Men can take control of their situation by measuring their own belly fat. No special blood tests or doctor visits are necessary, just grab a tape measure.

Blood pressure

Heart disease remains the top killer of both men and women, and high blood pressure is a serious warning sign.

Approximately 28 percent of all men in the U.S. have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and the National Stroke Association estimates up to 32 percent of Americans are unaware they have high blood pressure. Men can check their blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitor. However, if the numbers are consistently higher than 120 over 80, then a man should see his physician.

Skin check

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that all people (not just men) do a self-skin exam every month to spot new or changing moles and lesions that could indicate skin cancer. Because early detection is key to surviving skin cancer, a routine self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin. Once-a-month exams are ideal, but a yearly full body check by a physician is also recommended.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America, and 2.2 million people are diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer annually. An additional 70,000 are diagnosed with melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society.

Performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. It should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks.

Oral exams

Checking for gum disease is as easy as brushing your teeth. While brushing and flossing, keep an eye out for swollen or bleeding gums that could indicate problems like gum disease or oral cancer.

The American Cancer Society’s research shows that oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women, possibly because of cancer-causing HPV infections, which account for 72 percent of all oral and throat tumors. Schedule regular dentist and oral care visits to make sure your mouth is healthy.

Though self-exams should never take the place of regular doctor examinations and physicals, they can help men become aware of changes in their body and health. For more information about men’s health, visit the Men’s Health University by INTEGRIS.

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