It’s that time of year when men are reminded that they are much less likely than women to take control of their health, see their doctor on a regular basis, and get cancer screenings and other tests that are important at any time, but especially as you get older. June is National Men’s Health Month.
It’s been well documented by the American Heart Association and other medical groups that men tend to come up with excuses for avoiding the doctor, even if they have health concerns that could be serious. A panel of Baptist Health South Florida physicians addressed the stigma behind men putting off their checkups and screenings during a Facebook LIVE session: Speak Up About Your Health: #MensHealthMonth .
“Having an open and honest conversation with the man in your life regarding his health — and diving into why men tend to be more hesitant to visit their doctor — can help put an end to the stigma of men seeking help,” said Jonathan Fialkow, M.D.,  chief population health officer for Baptist Health and chief of cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute , who hosted the panel discussion. “June is Men’s Health Month – a way to encourage men to take action and start taking care of themselves.”
Joining Dr. Fialkow on the panel are: Ahmed Edlefrawy, M.D. , urologic oncologist with Miami Cancer Institute ; Gillian Generoso, M.D. , internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care ; and Jason Perry, M.D. , primary care sports medicine physician with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care .
Dr. Generoso confirms that many male patients don’t visit her office unless they’re encouraged by their wives or other family members. “You don’t know how many times I’ve had a man come into my office and I say: ‘Hey, so what’s your reason for the visit?’ And he’s like, ‘The reason I’m here is because my wife sent me here,’” said Dr. Generoso. “A lot of times men seek care because they’re encouraged by their loved ones. So, someone might just need a gentle reminder. Others might need a little bit more of a nudge.”
Here are question-and-answer excerpts from the Facebook LIVE. You can see the full video presentation here .
Dr. Fialkow: Where do we get the biggest benefit from screenings in men?
Dr. Edlefrawy: “In general, after the age of 55, it’s recommended to get the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, as well as a rectal exam, to detect prostate cancer. This age of 55 is a general age for the entire population. But patients with family history of prostate cancer or African Americans who tend to have more aggressive prostate cancer, need to be tested or screened for prostate cancer earlier, as early as 45 or 50. Prostate cancer is a very slow growing cancer, and very curable. And if it’s not curable, it’s very treatable in early detection. With early detection, no one should actually die from prostate cancer.
“Another screening for a particular cancer is the self-exam for young adult teenagers and men in their early 20s. And the self-exam that’s done once monthly is very, very important for detecting testicular cancer. And compared to prostate cancer, testicular cancer is very, very aggressive cancer, and very fast to growing. But the good side is that it’s very curable. Just the fact that it’s very fast to grow makes it very sensitive to chemotherapy. And it’s a very curable disease, even when it has spread.”
Dr. Fialkow: What tools do you use to get men to open up … for you to assess their medical condition, but they might not be comfortable to talk about?
Dr. Perry: “I’m typically seeing people for problems that they’re very comfortable talking about (regarding) bones and joints and injuries, and people wanting to stay active. But, in general, this comes down to the environment in the office and the clinic, establishing good rapport with your patients, having very good bedside manner, getting to know your patients, being friendly, and not feeling that the visit is rushed. Your patients really just need to know that you care. And if they feel that you care, they’re going to be more willing to open up about things that may be more sensitive.
“Oftentimes, as physicians, we have an agenda, things that we want to talk to the patients about, things that we want to address with their health. But we need to allow time to listen to patients and hear their concerns, and address them with empathy and compassion. And, at the end of the day, if you don’t feel like a patient is opening up about something, we just really need to ask specific questions and not be shy.”
Dr. Fialkow: Any type of recommendations you would have to encourage men to get themselves checked out for regular medical visits?
“(Men) might need a little more than a nudge. And then the partner might go, ‘Hey, I think it’s time for a checkup. And I made this appointment for you.’ So, it makes it easy for someone to go in when they’re a little bit more proactive. Not that everybody needs that, but … Primary care addresses general issues as general practitioner. So, if you have a symptom or you just want a general checkup, it would start with a primary physician.
“It’s really for me about establishing rapport as a primary doctor. I’m often the first person that patients see. So, they have to feel comfortable telling me things that might be hard to talk about. The way I do that is at the beginning of the visit. I introduce myself. I outline what I think needs to happen at that visit. But, I also tell them that we’re going to have time to talk about what you want to talk about today. And just talk to them in a very non-judgmental manner.”