Preventive Screenings Help Improve Men’s Health and Save Lives

 

The Friday before Father’s Day men and their loved ones are encouraged to wear blue in celebration of June as Men’s Health Month. While our husbands and fathers can be reluctant to make a routine doctor visit, such a simple act can help prevent debilitating diseases and save lives.

The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to bring awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys, according to menshealthmonth.org. This month gives healthcare providers, public policy makers, the media and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

The Importance of Regular Checkups

Two of the leading causes of sickness in men in the United States are prostate cancer and heart disease. These ailments can be prevented, or at least their effects at can be lessened, through early detection and lifestyle choices.

Dr. Tim Langford has been with Arkansas Urology for 24 years. The top five issues he sees in men are:

  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Kidney stones
  • Prostate infection

And, he says, the best way to prevent any of it is through screenings and regular checkups.

“In close to 50 percent of our patients we’re treating men with enlarged prostates and prostate disease,” Langford said. These are symptomatic issues resulting in things like slowed urination stream and trouble urinating. With prostate cancer, there are no symptoms in the beginning, and once symptoms appear, that means the cancer has become aggressive, he said, noting the importance of early detection through screenings.

Cancer typically isn’t suspected in a regular prostate exam and is found through a PSA blood count exam, Langford said. An MRI of the prostate is relatively new method to detect cancer. “It gives us a much better detailed picture of the anatomy of the prostate, unlike an ultrasound, for example.”

Rather than blind biopsies, medical professionals like Langford now do MRI fusion biopsies, which points physicians directly to where the cancer is, leading to fewer side effects. “For years, we had to treat the whole prostate, and now, like lumpectomies in breast cancer cases where you don’t have to remove the whole breast, we can use focal therapy and treat the affected area, which reduces the risks of incontinence and impotence,” Langford said. This treatment is ideal for cancer tumors that are an inch or smaller, he noted.

How Loved Ones Can Help

It’s really up to the patient to be ahead of the game and get checked. “Men are typically not as good at going to physician as women,” Langford said. “They’re gonna wait until they feel bad to go to the doctor. And a lot of men with low testosterone may be depressed and have a low sex drive, but they just put up with it.”

A common hesitation stems from fear, Langford said. “They’re afraid to have a procedure and see going to the doctor when they don’t necessarily feel bad as a weakness, but it’s so important to be proactive.”

Loved ones of men in their 30s, 40s and 50s can nudge them to go in for routine screenings so they don’t have to face a prospectively debilitating future. “It’s so important to get men in this age range in to have their levels checked and get screened,” Langford said.

There is such glamour and hype around many of women’s health issues and men’s health issues may get overlooked, but that doesn’t make them any less important.

Attracting Men to Better Health

To help entice and encourage men to make screenings and checkups a part of their lifestyle, Arkansas Urology hosts a kickoff to men’s health every September. It’s held in conjunction with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month as well as the start of football season. Flat screen TVs are given away every 15 minutes, and there’s typically something extraordinary showcased  like Mark Martin’s racecar.

The real purpose of the free event, which attracted 200-300 men last year, is to provide a complete panel of screenings to men and bring home the importance of taking care of their health, Langford said. And so many health concerns facing men are caused by obesity and can be prevented.

Many ailments associated with obesity may eventually contribute to urological disorders, Langford said. “When they come in for a urological problem, we may find they have diabetes, their thyroid levels are low or they have high blood pressure,” he said. “Urologists are often the first to see men for health concerns because of things like kidney stones, problems urinating or infertility. They almost come to us more than a primary care physician, but we want to work in collaboration with their primary physicians.”

Langford suggests a few things men can do to take control of their own health:

  • Follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
  • Stay properly hydrated with water.
  • By the age of 35 or 40, undergo a general screening from a physician to have their blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and other levels checked.

Heart Disease – Still the No. 1 Killer

Heart disease is another major health issue facing men. In fact, it’s the No. 1 killer among men in the state and in the country, according to the American Heart Association.

Dr. William A. Rollefson, a cardiologist at Arkansas Heart Hospital, knows this fact all too well and it’s a main reason Little Rock has one of the highest number of cardiologists per capita. Preventative measures are key in reversing this mortal trend. He brings home the point with this statistic: “A third of people who die from heart disease didn’t even know they had a problem.”

For $100, people can participate in the Heart Hospital’s Keep the Beat program to get screened for things such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. These are two major risk factors of heart disease, as are cigarette smoking and family history. Participants don’t have to have any warning signs or symptoms appear before getting screened, Rollefson said.

As Langston pointed out, Rollefson said many times men are reluctant to take precautionary measures toward their health. “Men are often prompted to have their heart health checked by their spouse or after their mother, sister, father, brother or other family member has a heart episode.”

Rollefson shared an example of a seemingly unlikely heart disease candidate. This relatively healthy man practiced on the tennis court every day and one day collapsed. “We were able to save him, but you just never know and that’s why it’s so important to get regular screenings.”

Keep the Beat is a primary health measure, and a secondary measure for confirmed heart disease patients is the Strong Hearts program. According to the hospital website, the program provides intensive individualized management of heart failure patients, especially after a hospitalization.

Rollefson said this program is one of the most state-of-the-art heart rehabilitation services in the state and in the nation. It provides heart patients a “multidisciplinary approach” to leading a healthy lifestyle, he said. A chef helps change eating habits and guides patients as they adapt to new ones while trainers help patients learn the right exercise regime for them in the large workout room with high-quality equipment. Spouses may participate in the program as well, so healthier choices can be more easily practiced at home.

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