June is Men’s Health Awareness month, making it a good opportunity to consider some healthy living habits. Dr. Rahul Jain, a family physician at Sunnybrook, shares some insights into health screenings not to be overlooked, how often you should see your family doctor and why it’s important to be proactive about your health.
Testicular and prostate cancer
For people with testicles and prostates, it’s important to be aware of possible signs and symptoms of testicular and prostate cancer.
Dr. Jain says testicular cancer can present at any age, although is more common in younger people and peaks around age 30. He says people with testicles should begin regular self-examinations of their testicles in their 20s and 30s, paying attention to any changes.
He says symptoms to speak to your family doctor about would be “a lump or enlargement of either testicle, a dull ache, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum that just doesn’t seem right.”
Family doctors will typically begin screening for prostate cancer when patients are in their 50s (40s if there is a family history or other risk factors). Prostate cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages, and Dr. Jain says one of the challenges with diagnosis is symptoms, when they occur, can be similar to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a common condition in people with prostates as they age.
Some of those similar symptoms are difficulty urinating or having decreased force and flow, but symptoms that could be more specific to prostate cancer could be “blood in the urine or semen, painful urination, erectile dysfunction or even unintentional weight loss or bone pain in advanced disease,” Dr. Jain says.
Frequency of doctor’s visits
While it used to be common for patients to see their family doctor for an annual physical, Dr. Jain says the recommendations have changed over the past decade.
“We’ve moved toward appointments called periodic health visits,” he says. “And that’s where we really start focusing more on preventative screening, immunizations and education.”
He says since there are several health screenings that are recommended starting at age 40, it’s a good age to start seeing your family doctor more regularly.
“I would say, as in my practice, once someone turns 40, it’s really important to make it more of a regular routine to see your family doctor,” he says. “Every one or two years may be reasonable, although the specific interval should be discussed with your health care provider based on your unique health needs.”
Dr. Jain says it’s critical to be proactive about your health. Yes, that means going for preventative health screenings and booking those doctor’s appointments, but it’s more than that.
“Watch for concerning symptoms and seek help early. Also, even though it seems simple, it’s paramount to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly,” he says.
Another suggestion from Dr. Jain is to monitor your blood pressure periodically, whether at a pharmacy or with an approved home blood pressure device. It can provide useful information in diagnosing hypertension.
“Honestly, having good blood pressure control is probably one of the best things people can do for themselves to prevent heart attacks, strokes and mini strokes (TIAs),” he says. “It’s often under-appreciated, as high blood pressure may not present with symptoms, although it is highly preventable and treatable.”
Whatever it looks like, though, Dr. Jain emphasizes the importance of prioritizing your health and wellness.
“It is important to not neglect taking care of yourself and ensure you continue to connect with your health care provider virtually or in person.”