National Men’s Health Week (June 13-19) was created to raise the profile of men’s health and increase willingness to access healthcare services.
This week I wanted to talk about how men shouldn’t be embarrassed about visiting their doctor for health problems and what symptoms to look out for to reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses.
Recent NHS statistics show that men visit their GP 20 per cent less frequently than women, ignoring symptoms and taking risks with their health.
Worryingly, perhaps as a result of this, 22 per cent of men die before the age of 65, compared to 12 per cent of women. These figures increase to 42 per cent and 26 per cent respectively for people aged 75.
A focus of this year’s Men’s Health Week is online health resources, to combat the reluctance to use traditional health services, such as GPs and pharmacies.
However, if yourself, or a loved one, are suffering from any of the following symptoms, book an appointment with your GP. Don’t be embarrassed and wait until they become too serious to ignore as delays in diagnosis could lead to serious health problems.
n Urination problems – this could include frequent urination, the sudden need to urinate, pain or trouble when urinating and blood in the urine. These symptoms could be a sign of prostate cancer – the most common cancer among British men. This cancer has a relatively high survival rate (more than two thirds), so it’s important that you get any symptoms checked out as soon as possible.
n Many men over 50 will suffer from an enlarged prostate at some point in their lives. This is completely normal and while it may cause discomfort, it isn’t life threatening. You should still visit your GP as there are some treatments available. For more information on prostate cancer, visit prostate-cancer.org.uk.
n Enlarged testicles, a pea-sized lump in the testicles and a dull ache in the lower abdomen. These symptoms could be caused by testicular cancer, the most common cancer in men between the ages of 20 and 35. Give yourself regular self-examinations and go to your GP if you notice any changes. Help and advice about testicular cancer can be found at cancerhelp.org.uk/type/testicular-cancer.
n Feeling negative, overwhelmed or anxious and suffering from insomnia, loss of energy or trouble concentrating – these symptoms could be a sign of depression. Three times as many men commit suicide as women. So, it’s important that if you feel concerned by any of these symptoms or you notice that a loved one is suffering from any of these problems, you speak to your GP or a therapist for professional help. Advice on who to turn to if you think you’re suffering from depression is available from mind.org.uk.
n Drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week – excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many health problems such as heart disease, liver damage, mouth cancer, brain damage and fertility problems. Speak to your GP if you are regularly drinking over the recommended amount or if you feel that your drinking is becoming a problem and affecting everyday life. They will be able to refer you for specialist help. Check your alcohol consumption at drinkaware.co.uk.
n High blood pressure, high cholesterol. These health conditions could increase your risk of developing heart disease, which kills more men than women and may develop 10-15 years earlier. Visit your GP for regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks. You can also help to reduce your risk of developing the disease by stopping smoking, increasing the exercise you do and eating a healthy diet.