By Mark H. Greenawald
Greenawald is a Family and Community Medicine physician for Carilion Clinic and an instructor for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
For the men in our lives, November is Men’s Health Month — “Movember” for short. The aim is to improve men’s health by reducing the number of men dying prematurely by 25% by the year 2030. And while men should take care of themselves year-round, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found men are half as likely as women to see a physician every two years. That’s despite men being likely to die earlier than women from common, treatable ailments like heart disease and cancer.
Living in a technology age, information comes lighting fast and in mind-boggling quantities. Modern technology in health care has created advances unimaginable only a few years ago. We’re preventing diseases unlike any time in history, treating ailments we never imagined we could, and extending lifespans in the course of it all. Yet, Carilion must work every day to clear the low hurdle of encouraging everyone to schedule preventative health appointments.
We regularly work with men to change their approach to caring for themselves. Our commitment is to have men not wait to repair something when it breaks but to work to prevent permanent damage before it occurs.
The journey toward prevention begins by encouraging men to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced plant-based diet, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and consuming alcohol only in moderation if at all. Men should also develop constructive outlets for stress and surround themselves with loving, supportive relationships.
With regard to screening, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until age 75. USPSTF recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 55 to 80 who have a 30 pack-a-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Last year, the USPSTF released updated recommendations for prostate cancer screening. For men aged 55 to 69, your doctor should discuss potential benefits and harms of periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. They may decide to have this conversation starting at age 50 based on other national guidelines or your specific risks, which include being African-American or having a family history of the disease. From there, the decision is an individual one based on your values and preferences. For men 70 and over, PSA-based screening has not been shown to have net benefits or the harms outweigh them.
A diagnosis of cancer need not be life-altering. Treatments are continuing to evolve, and Carilion is committed to providing the most up-to-date treatment as well as post-treatment care.
Carilion’s clinical care professionals stand with all men during Men’s Health Month and throughout the year to develop a customized plan to maximize their health. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike. Make a commitment to your health a priority for 2020. Your loved ones are counting on you to take care of yourselves, starting today.