Five things every man should know…..

It goes without saying that you should visit your doctor if you feel particularly ill (a short term cold doesn’t count!) however, a spotlight has recently been shone on the fact that men aren’t always likely to do this. Men are less likely to visit their GP than women. There are numerous reasons, from embarrassment to fear of a painful examination. The result of this procrastination is that men are far more likely to present with advanced disease.

Here are five vitally important things, specific to men, which you really should see a doctor about if they are relevant to you, from Medigold Health’s Dr Clare Fernandes 

Many men find that, as they age, they have difficulty with poor stream, increased frequency or difficulty starting or stopping urinating. One in five men in their 50’s has benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), a non-cancerous condition in which the prostate (a walnut-sized gland that secretes substances which aid sperm in fertilisation) enlarges, causing the above symptoms. This can impact your quality of life, but many simple lifestyle changes and medical treatments are available. Prostate cancer can also cause this, so anyone with these symptoms should visit their GP. They will perform a digital rectal examination (often less painful and prolonged than men think), to examine the prostate’s surface to see if it is enlarged and check for cancerous growths. A blood test may then be required to check chemical levels produced by the prostateor a rectal ultrasound for further clarity.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. While still relatively rare, detection is of great importance because sufferers tend to be young and fit. It can start as a painless lump which, if caught early, is generally curable with surgery.  I recommend a monthly self-examination, preferably after a shower or bath. Cup the testicles in one hand and use the other hand’s finger and thumb in a rolling motion to examine the testicle and the cord for smoothness, consistency and shape. It is normal for them to be slightly different sizes and for one to hang slightly lower. Look for any lump, anything hard or craggy. There are many causes of testicular lumps, and most of them will be non-cancerous, so don’t panic if you feel one. See your GP for an informed opinion. Don’t worry boys; we have seen it all before. Men at higher risk of testicular cancer include those with family history and those who have had a previously undescended testicle.

Men are just as likely as women to suffer from depression, less likely to seek help, and are, sadly, three times more likely to commit suicide. One in ten men suffers from depression after having a baby. There are many simple measures to help combat depression, including self-help (books, computer modules), self-analysis of behaviour and mood with a counsellor (called cognitive behavioural therapy), and medication.

If you are suffering, or want more information, consult your GP and check out this useful link from Men’s Health Forum, an independent charity with lots of useful advice: http://www.malehealth.co.uk/howRU

According to sources, one in five men between 20 and 40 suffers from impotence, aka erectile dysfunction (ED), at any one time. The impact on your confidence, relationship and life can be tremendous and 25% of men find drugs like Viagra ineffective. There are many causes, around 80% of them physical, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Treating these will resolve the ED, but the implications for the rest of your body are a greater reason to get checked out. There are many medical tests to find a cause for ongoing ED, and many new treatments, from pills like Viagra, to pumps and even operations. Don’t suffer alone. Speak to your doctor.

Sexually transmitted diseases (such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea) are increasing, not only amongst the under 25’s. The other worry is that some strains are becoming drug-resistant, making them harder to treat. They can cause inflammation of the testicles, burning sensation when urinating and can lead to infertility, but you can be infected without symptoms. Protect yourself, and those you are intimate with, by remembering the only useful words ever sung by a Spice Girl, “come a little bit closer baby; put it on, put it on”. Using a condom is the only way to prevent transmission. If you think you may be at risk, NHS Choices has a good website to search for sexual health, aka GenitoUrinary Medicine (GUM), clinics in your area. Many Boots Chemists also offer discrete services.

Gentlemen, the moral of the story is that if you are affected by any of the above, go and see your GP. You are not alone. Friendly and supportive advice is always available.