All adults over the age of 18 should be screened and examined regularly by a primary care physician as part of their health regimen. However, men are less likely to abide by this guideline and make their health visits a priority. According to the American Heart Association, discomfort and wanting to save time and money are among the top 10 reasons that men avoid going to the doctor.
Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death for men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These two issues can be spotted early and treated if a person is proactive about their healthcare and screenings. Some diagnoses that are particular to men, such as testicular and prostate cancers, have much better outcomes if they’re caught in their beginning stages.
If you’re a man, being proactive about your health can extend your life expectancy and improve your quality of life. Doctors that specialize in assessing men’s health are on your team and want to help you.
Sometimes called general practitioners, primary care physicians treat an array of common, chronic, and acute illnesses. Primary care doctors treat everything from sore throats to heart conditions, although some conditions may warrant a referral to a specialist. For instance, someone who’s diagnosed with congestive heart disease (CHF) may be referred to a cardiologist for evaluation at the time of initial diagnosis. However, a primary care physician can likely manage most chronic, stable CHF patients over the long term.
Other common ailments treated by primary care doctors include:
Primary care doctors also keep track of your vaccination status and provide other types of preventive care, such as age-appropriate health maintenance practices. For example, middle-aged men may expect to have regular screening tests for prostate cancer. Similarly, everyone who has an average risk for colon cancer should be screened for it beginning at age 50.Beginning at around 35 years of age, men should also be screened for high cholesterol. Your physician will typically recommend that you have your blood lipid profile assessed annually.
Your primary care physician will ideally serve as a home base for your medical care. They’ll refer you to specialists as needed and keep your health records in one place for future reference. Men and boys should have a physical checkup at least once a year.
For men, a primary care doctor may be the first to identify certain conditions, including:
These conditions are all far more likely to occur in men than in women. A good primary care doctor will be on the lookout for them.
The American College of Physicians points out that seeing an internist might be beneficial for people who are looking for a doctor experienced in multiple specialties. If you have a chronic condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, you may wish to see an internist.
Also known as internal medicine specialists, internists are to adults as pediatricians are to children. Internists are specifically trained to treat adult diseases. Internists are also cross-trained and educated in a comprehensive program that involves studying different specialties and understanding how multiple diagnoses relate to one another. Some internists work in hospitals, and some work in nursing homes. All have a depth of experience from studying different fields of medicine.
See a dentist to have your teeth cleaned twice a year. If you develop a cavity or other dental problem, your dentist will be in charge of treating it. Modern dentistry is relatively painless and often highly effective at dealing with many complicated problems.
Dentists can screen for conditions such as periodontitis or oral cancer. Proper care and cleaning of the teeth reduces the incidence of periodontitis. Untreated periodontitis has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung infections, making proper tooth care all the more important.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of problems related to the eyes and vision. Optometrists are qualified to screen for a variety of health issues related to the eyes, including glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal diseases. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who are qualified to perform a complete spectrum of eye-related services, including eye surgery. If you just need to have your vision checked, you will most likely see an optometrist. If you develop a problem with your eyes that requires surgery, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist.
In men with perfect vision, a visit to the eye doctor to check for cataracts, glaucoma, and vision loss every two to three years is still recommended. Men who wear glasses or lenses should have an annual checkup to make sure that their prescription hasn’t changed.
Specialists are doctors whom you may not see regularly. They may perform screening procedures based on referral by another doctor.
Urologists specialize in the treatment of the male and female urinary tracts. They also specialize in the male reproductive system. Men see urologists for conditions such as an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or cancers of the urinary tract. Other common concerns addressed by urologists include male infertility and sexual dysfunction. Men over 40 years old should begin to see a urologist annually to screen for prostate cancer.
A urologist can advise you about your sexual health, but remember that a primary care physician can screen you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases. Any sexually active man should make sure that he’s being screened by a doctor for STIs, especially if he has multiple sex partners.
Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of the skin, hair, and nails. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it’s prone to common problems, such as acne in adolescence and skin cancer later in life.
Men of Northern European ancestry tend to be at greater risk of developing skin cancer than men with darker skin. Men who were severely sunburned in childhood or who have had repeated sun exposure that resulted in burning should see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. Your dermatologist can conduct an annual full-body skin check. They can look for any unusual moles or other anomalies, which could signal skin cancer.
Dermatologists can also help with skin problems that are more common in men than women, such as hair loss and athlete’s foot.
An oncologist is a doctor that specializes in the study and treatment of cancer. There are different kinds of oncologists. Some specialize in cancers of the blood, some specialize in identification and surgical removal of tumors, and others administer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
If you’re a man who’s been referred to an oncologist because of testicular, colon, prostate, or skin cancer concerns, you’re in no way a rare case. Having a proper screening from an oncologist will determine whether or not you do, in fact, have cancer. A screening can also reveal whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
Most people, especially men, don’t like going to the doctor. Developing a relationship with a primary care physician that you’re comfortable with might change your perspective on that inconvenient appointment that you don’t feel like you have time for. More importantly, it could save your life. Find a primary care doctor or internist who practices preventive care, and schedule an appointment to take the first step to making your life healthier.
You asked, we answered
- How will I know whether my doctor is the right fit for me?
The relationship one has with their doctor is very important and is founded on trust. If you don’t feel a good fit with your doctor, you may be more likely to avoid seeing them until health problems become advanced. You can generally tell after a few visits whether or not you and your doctor are a good fit. For instance, you should feel that your doctor cares about you and your health and listens to your concerns. You should recognize that at times your doctor may have to give advice that you may not want to hear. For instance, they may bring up losing weight or quitting smoking. This is your doctor doing their job and shouldn’t deter you from seeing them.- Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP
- Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.