Getting dad, your husband or grandpa to the doctor isn’t always easy.
“It’s very difficult for men to speak to doctors,” says Richard Sadovsky, an associate professor of family medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. “Men want to be invulnerable and don’t want to admit they’re having health problems.”
It’s especially difficult for men to discuss preventive health, Sadovsky says, because when they do go to the doctor, they’re focused on what’s bothering them at that specific instance, not what could be wrong with them down the road. “It’s important for men to understand that doctors aren’t just here to help you heal wounds,” he says. “We’re here to help you live a long, healthy life.”
So the next time the man in your life goes to the doctor – or if you’re a man too afraid to broach a certain subject – bring along this list of questions every man should ask so you can be sure all health needs are addressed.
Do I need a colonoscopy? This should be the first question that men age 50 or older ask, Sadovsky says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that colon cancer killed 27,073 men in 2010, the last year of available data. But it’s treatable if discovered early. “Colonoscopies are something all men should get,” Sadovsky says. Colonoscopies can detect precancerous polyps before they develop and prevent you from having to undergo more invasive treatment later on. In other words, “Colonoscopies allow you to stop cancer before it ever begins,” Sadovsky says. Men should get a colonoscopy every seven to 10 years, he adds, but if a test reveals a polyp, your doctor might recommend that you get screened more often.
What’s my risk for prostate cancer? Many men avoid asking this question because they’re nervous about the test, Sadovsky says, but for people at risk, the test for prostate cancer can be as simple as a blood test. “Only people at risk for prostate cancer – African-Americans and people who have a close family member with it – should be screened regularly,” Sadovsky says. “Asking about your risk for prostate cancer allows you and your doctor to have a discussion about your health and determine what tests, if any, are necessary.”
How do I check myself for testicular cancer? Men should check themselves for testicular cancer regularly, ideally once a month. To do so, hold your testicle between your thumb and forefinger, roll it back and forth, and feel for any lumps and changes in size or consistency. Speak to your doctor if you notice any changes or need help checking.
Am I due for any vaccines? Even though you might be vaccinated against polio, measles and other childhood illnesses, that doesn’t mean you’re protected against everything. “Vaccines are thought of as something for kids, but adults need to think about them as well,” Sadovsky says. “The major vaccines we give adults include pneumonia, shingles and annual flu vaccines. It’s important that you speak to your doctor about which you need, so you’re protected as best you can be.”
Am I taking the right supplements? Men often self-medicate with supplements after hearing about them from friends, says registered dietitian Molly Morgan, author of “The Skinny Rules.” ”They take supplements without speaking to a doctor about whether it’s right for them,” she says. “When you go to your doctor, take the bottles of supplements or write them down, and review them with your health care provider to make sure they are right for you.”
Some supplements can interfere with medication, Morgan adds, so it’s important your doctor knows everything you’re taking.
What’s changed since my last visit? When going to the doctor for a specific problem, men often aren’t thinking about the bigger picture of their overall health, Sadovsky says. But any time you’re at the doctor is a good opportunity to be an empowered patient, and ask about your vital signs and blood work so you can see what’s changed since you were there last. “Your doctor should have a history of your blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and you should get them rechecked every time you go back to your doctor,” Sadovsky says.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease, and high blood sugar puts you at risk for diabetes, Morgan says, so it’s important to get a baseline and make sure they don’t rise too high. “Knowing your numbers is essential for taking steps to reverse early signs of disease,” she says.
Other questions you should ask come down to your personal lifestyle choices, Sadovsky says. If you smoke, for instance, you should ask about getting screened for lung cancer (not to mention, you should stop smoking!). But ultimately, the only way to fully take advantage of your doctor appointment is to make it into a conversation. Don’t just sit there passively listening to what your doctor says – get involved and ask questions, even if you think they’re embarrassing, such as asking about erectile dysfunction. “I want to help my patients with anything and everything,” Sadovsky says, “but I can only do that if they tell me what they need.”
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.