A Patient Journey for Men's Health
Historically, men have been notoriously bad about seeking medical help. If you have any signs or symptoms of ill-health, though, an early consultation with your general practitioner (GP) is the best course of action.
In a recent article the NHS highlighted 5 symptoms men should not ignore:
- A lump on your testicle - Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect men between the ages of 20-35. While most lumps are benign (non-cancerous), if you notice anything unusual about your testicles, play it safe and get checked over by your doctor. Read more about testicular health.
- Moles - checking your moles regularly will alert you to any changes which may have occurred. Things to be aware of are changes in mole shape or size, changes in the colour of the mole or the mole becoming itchy or bleeding. Again consult your doctor if you think your mole has changed as it can be checked and removed if necessary. A change in your mole can, in rare cases, be a sign of skin cancer however most changes are harmless. Also if you have a lot of moles, it’s also important to take extra care in the sun.
- Feeling depressed - depression is a real illness which can affect your quality of life. It can cause you to quickly lose interest in things you previously enjoyed such as work, family and social aspects of your life and can make you feel very alone. Men are statistically at increased risk of suicide as they do not seek help as readily as women. If you experience feelings of extreme sadness or anxiety, don’t feel that you have to deal with it alone. Speak with your doctor who will be able to help and provide details of support groups.
- Trouble urinating - experiencing difficulties with urination (the need to wee) could be a sign that your prostate (a walnut sized gland located below your bladder) is enlarged. There are many reasons why your prostate may have become enlarged. Read more about prostate health here. Your doctor will want to rule out prostate cancer. This is the most common type of cancer in men so being aware of your prostate health is essential.
- Impotence - most men will experience difficulties in getting or keeping an erection (impotence) at some point in their lives. If you experience problems for more than a couple of weeks, make an appointment to speak with your doctor. Generally, lifestyle changes such as changing your diet and losing weight should help but sometimes medication may be needed. Read more about sexual dysfunction.
Many men are also concerned about hair loss, cholesterol levels and heart disease. In order to help protect yourself from these and other problems, it’s important to maintain good mental and physical health, and to see your doctor if you experience any symptoms that are not normal for you. It is important, in particular, not to dismiss psychological or emotional symptoms as meremid-life crises; mental health disorders (including, for example,eating disorders) do of course affect men and should be talked through with a doctor. The same goes for physical symptoms suffered by many men such as back pain, constipation , high cholesterol , incontinence (either of the bowel or the bladder), migraines , arthritis , piles, and sports injuries. You should also visit your doctor if you have any physical or mental symptoms which are having an effect on your daily life. Most often these symptoms are nothing to be concerned about however it is worth consulting your GP who may be able to ease any worries you have about your health.
If you need to consult your doctor, he or she will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing, how long you have had them and whether there are any conditions which may make the symptoms better or worse. It can be helpful to keep a diary of symptoms to help your doctor understand what you are experiencing, the frequency and its impact. Your doctor may also ask about family history of illness and whether you are taking any medications. Physical examinations, further testing, or specialist referral may be required depending on your symptoms and your doctor’s initial diagnosis – in the case of prostate problems, for example, the doctor will perform a medical examination which may include a digital rectal examination (may also be referred to as a DRE; this test requires a doctor or a nurse to insert a gloved finger into your back passage), blood tests and more specific investigations such as X-rays or other scans. A specialist referral may include more specific tests such as CT scans (detailed cross-sectional imaging of inside the body), MRI scans (building images of the brain or other body parts), and biopsy (the analysis of samples of body tissue).
After diagnosis, your GP can advise you on any relevant lifestyle changes which may include quitting smoking, altering your diet to include more fruit and vegetables, lowering alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular exercise, and taking steps to manage stress. He or she may also advise you to follow up with specific health checks and screenings such as blood pressure testing, tests for diabetes and testicular self-examination.
Other treatment options, depending on diagnosis, may include medication, surgery, or other more specific therapies. talkhealth works with a number of groups and charities providing advice, information and support for men’s health concerns. The Men’s Health Forum deals with men’s health concerns generally. Orchid is a charity concerned with all forms of male cancer. For prostate concerns, we suggest Prostate Cancer UK, Prostate Action , and Tackle Prostate Cancer. We also suggest other more specialised charities such as MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too) and GMFA , the gay men’s health charity. For organizations focusing on other illnesses, from mental health concerns to skin conditions, look at a full list of our suggested charities and support organizations.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 2 September 2016