Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Five Things Every Man Should Know About His Health

...but doesn't really want to think about. (Happy Father's Day!)

So, your husband accidentally cuts his hand with a bread knife. It seems to be bleeding quite a lot, actually…and, well, now his fingers are feeling a bit numb... 

Trouble is, he’s watching the Super Bowl on TV with the guys and, unlike most years, it’s a great game.

What does he do? 

If he’s like many men, he’ll ignore that pesky laceration and go to the hospital only after they’ve handed out the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

Think I’m joking? Sadly, I’m not. A study done at the University of Maryland found a significant increase in the number of men admitted to emergency after major televised sporting events, and a drop in normal numbers during gametime.

Men are notorious for avoiding the doctor, and not just because of sports. Perhaps it’s along the same lines as the not-asking-for-directions imperative that seems to be part of the Y chromosome.

Guys, what is this about? Denial? Laziness? Almost certainly, there’s a strong embarrassment factor.

Well, it’s time to get over it.

Ladies, send this article to the men in your life…so we can plunge right into the truly nasty stuff. Like erectile dysfunction. And colon cancer. 

Let’s call it your Father’s Day gift to them. And really, it’s an act of love. Remind them: you want them to get healthy, and stay that way for a long time to come.

Get ready, guys—this is not going to be pretty. But don’t wimp out on me now. 

1. Prostate Disease

The prostate gland is, in many ways, a man’s Achilles heel. It seems like any number of things can go wrong with this wretched organ. It becomes enlarged in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).  It becomes inflamed or infected in prostatitis.

But the biggie everyone worries about, of course, is prostate cancer. We usually begin screening at age 50. Commonly used screening methods are the digital rectal exam (that’s digital as in finger, not as in cameras and TVs), and the PSA. 

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen, and it’s a blood test. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect test, and many men will receive false positive results. Much more research is needed on prostate cancer screening, but in the meantime, what’s a man to do?

For starters, sit down and chat with your doctor to discuss the pros and cons of screening. Know your family history. And be on the lookout for unusual symptoms, like blood in the urine, a weak flow, difficult or frequent urination, especially at night.

2. Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men. Which qualifies it as something you shouldn’t ignore, wouldn’t you say?

Take stock of your risk factors. The major ones are: high blood pressure, older age, diabetes, smoking, family history, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.  You’ll notice some of these risk factors are under your control. Some aren’t. Work on those that are fixable. See your doctor to get your blood pressure checked, and your cholesterol level done.

You should also know the symptoms of heart disease, chest pain being the most common. And when we say pain, this can be a pressure, a tightening, a heavy feeling…not what you’d describe as pain at all. Heart-related discomfort can also radiate to the jaw, arms, or back. Other associated symptoms may be: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, palpitations, and light-headedness. Anything along these lines warrants an immediate trip to the doctor.

3. Colorectal Cancer

Nobody likes to think about this one. But it’s a reality of life; it ranks as the third most common form of cancer in Canada. Risk factors include: age, smoking, drinking, and a crummy diet. A family history of polyps or cancers of the colon, breast, ovary, or endometrium will also raise your risk.

Watch for signs. Don’t ignore blood in the stool, a persistent change in bowel habits, a feeling of incomplete emptying, or chronic fatigue. See your doctor with any of these concerns. 

Early detection is important. Caught early enough, colorectal cancer can be cured entirely. Screening usually starts at age 50. A hemoccult test, checking for hidden blood in the stool, is the simplest screening method. 

Sigmoidoscopy is another screening method.  Yes, this is a lighted tube inserted up your, ahem, rear-end. It looks at the lower colon for cancer or polyps. If there’s anything suspicious, a colonoscopy is then done.

Now, say the word ‘colonoscopy’ and most people break out in a sweat. But it’s not as bad as you’re imagining. Dying from cancer, likely, is worse. Besides, they offer you sedation for the procedure. 

4. Erectile Dysfunction

Hey, look on the bright side—at least we don’t call it impotence anymore! And just so you know, it’s quite common. The Viagra people are clearly not going hungry.

Occasional difficulty with erection is practically ubiquitous, but if you’re having trouble more than 50% of the time, you need to be assessed for ED.

This feared condition can affect men of any age, but it’s more common in older age groups. A variety of causes can underlie the problem: hypertension, diabetes, smoking, neurological disease, medication, and psychological issues like performance anxiety, stress, fatigue and depression. Erectile dysfunction is not, by the way, the same thing as low sex drive or problems with ejaculation.

Treatment is tailored to your particular issues and may include medication, sex therapy, surgery, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, or simply stopping an offending medication. See your doctor for an assessment and to discuss options. And don’t be shy. An awkward visit with your doctor is far preferable to…well, you know.

5. Testicular Cancer

Think cancer is something only older men need to worry about? Think again. Although rare, testicular cancer is a young man’s disease—it’s the most common form of cancer in men ages 15 to 34. A history of undescended testes raises your risk. If caught early, there’s a high potential for cure.

What you should do is check yourself regularly. How? Gently, but firmly, roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers, feeling for abnormal masses or lumps. If you’re not sure what you’re checking for, ask your doctor to show you how to do a self-exam. Yes, even if (horror of horrors)...your doctor is female.

Guys, now you’re armed with a little more knowledge. You’ve got some stuff to get tested.  And a list of symptoms you shouldn’t ignore. 


So. Next time you’re sick, developing a peculiar rash, or bleeding half to death, do yourself (and all of us, the women who care about you) a favour: get checked out. Now. Not at half-time.