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Men's Health Week - Five health checks for men

One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to have regular health checks with your doctor. Even if you feel well or don’t have any symptoms you’re concerned about, you should make time for regular check-ups. This is because some diseases can develop slowly over time and not exhibit symptoms until the condition has progressed.

However, early detection will ensure earlier management which is often more effective than later treatment. In some cases, it can also save your life.

Heart health check

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death in Australia with far more men at risk of a fatal heart event than women. CVD refers to all diseases and conditions involving the heart and blood vessels, and includes heart disease, stroke and heart failure. CVD accounts for 26 per cent of all male deaths in Australia every year.

However, you can significantly reduce your risk of CVD by having a regular heart health check. This usually involves questions about your lifestyle and family, a blood pressure check and a blood cholesterol test. Experts recommend being checked every two years once you’re over 45, or once you’re over 35 if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Diabetes test

Type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges in Australia. Statistics show that one person develops the disease every five minutes, and more men develop the disease than women. Diabetes can lead to other health conditions such as heart disease (you’re between two and four times likely to develop the disease), blindness and amputation.

However, having a regular check with your doctor can reduce your risk of developing diabetes. A check will usually involve a fasting blood sugar level test to check for high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia). Check with your doctor how often you should be tested, as this will depend upon your overall health, and your risk factors.

Bowel health check

More than 8,500 men are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year, with one in 11 developing bowel cancer in their lifetime. Around 55 per cent of all Australians diagnosed with the disease are men.

However, healthy diet and lifestyle choices, along with regular screening and surveillance can reduce your risk.

Current guidelines recommend that when you’re aged between 50 and 74, you use an at-home faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every two years, if you have an average or near average risk of bowel cancer. If you’re in this age group, this test is now mailed to you free of charge, every two years, as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).

If you have a family history of bowel cancer (i.e. a first- or second-degree relative diagnosed with bowel cancer, under the age of 55 years), you may need to be screened via a colonoscopy every three to five years. Speak to your doctor about your personal risk factors.

Skin cancer check

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with two-thirds of Australians being diagnosed with it by the time they’re 70. The incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in men is almost double that of women, while melanoma is the third most common cancer in men after prostate and bowel cancer.

The good news is that regular skin checks can help protect your health. The sooner a skin cancer is identified the more effective treatment will be. There is currently no formal screening program for skin cancers in Australia, but it’s recommended you become familiar with your skin. If you notice any of the following, visit your GP or a skin care clinic for a check:

  • any crusty, non-healing sores

  • scaly, dry spots or patches on the skin

  • small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour

  • new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months.

Prostate check

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with more men dying from it, than women dying of breast cancer. Risk factors include age and family history. Currently there is no formal screening program for men. However, if you’re concerned about your risk, speak to your doctor to see if regular screening tests are appropriate for you.

Screening for prostate cancer is usually done via a blood test called a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, and/or a physical examination during which your doctor will check the size of your prostate via a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). The results of these tests usually determine what kind of follow-up is required, if any.

Remember, just because you notice any changes to your health, or new or unusual symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer or a life-threatening disease. However, it is important to follow up with your doctor who can conduct a number of health checks.

Ensuring you prioritise your health and get regular check ups when required can take time. But doing these and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is much easier to do when you want to, rather than leaving it too late and doing it because you have to.

Why not book your check up with your GP today.

Please note: The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.

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