After the Pink, Get Your Spouse to Think

mens health

Ask any woman which color ribbon represents breast cancer awareness, and she will be able to tell you: Pink! And most women know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Today’s savvy mom probably has a laminated sheet with a breast self-exam how-to hanging in her shower and already knows her risk of breast cancer. For good reason, too: One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. So, while mothers and women are reminded in October to eat healthy and exercise, to check their breasts for lumps once a month and to have a mammogram once they are over the age of 40, what about their male counterparts?

Cancer & Men: What are Their Risks?

“The five most common cancers in American men are prostate, lung, colon, bladder, and melanoma,” said Seth Strope, MD, urological oncologist with Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Prostate cancer screening is currently controversial. The American Urological Association (AUA) and American Cancer Society recommend shared decision making between patients and their physicians regarding screening for men between the ages of 55 and 70.”

Testicular cancer is most common in younger men, up to 40 years of age. Unfortunately, there are no set screening tests or recommendations for testicular cancer. “Men can perform self-examinations at home, or request an exam during their annual wellness checkup,” recommended Dr. Strope.

It’s Just a Trip to the Doctor, What’s Keeping Him From Going?

Aristides Sastre, MD, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care said, “From my experience, men have some trepidation when it comes to the subject of both prostate and testicular cancer screening and may avoid making appointments out of fear or perceived embarrassment over certain portions of the physical exam.”

Dr. Sastre goes on to explain, “From patient feedback, many also express concerns that they are going to be diagnosed with something ‘wrong,’ and might need to be treated so they avoid going to the doctor.”

What is a mom to do when her husband or loved one is dealing with embarrassment and fear around cancer screening? Having a trusted doctor is more than half the battle. “In those cases, I would typically provide the male patients reassurance about the health partnership and the fact that I am here to help him identify and reduce his health risk factors, provide screening where necessary and make evidence-based recommendations as they become available,” said Dr. Sastre.

As an oncologist, Dr. Strope shared, “It is common to see patients whose cancer has progressed because they have avoided going to the doctor. It is important to respond to symptoms that might be suggestive of cancer. For example, blood in the urine can be the first warning sign of bladder or kidney cancer, and blood with a bowel movement can be a warning that colon cancer is present.”

Keeping Them Well: Annual Check-ups are a Must

Cancer is by no means the only threat to the health of our male loved ones. It can be like pulling teeth to get your husband to his primary care doctor for his annual exam. Speaking of teeth, when was the last time he went to the dentist? Women and moms are the masters of the family calendar, booking appointment after appointment for their kids, themselves, and even the dog (don’t forget the flea medicine!). On top of all of that, some women feel like they need to schedule their husband’s medical appointments as well, just so they actually happen.

“I just book his appointments for him and tell him where to be and what time to be there,” shared local mom, Korrin Rogers. Another wife, Jennifer Beamer, joked, “He just never goes! If it wasn’t for the checkups he has with the Army, his teeth would have probably fallen out by now!”

Whether the men in your life are on top of their wellness exams or you have to drag them there, kicking and screaming, it’s become more important than ever to stay on top of potential health risks. “Recent trends have shown that chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are occurring much earlier in life, which may potentially lead to a lifetime of dealing with chronic medical conditions,” said Dr. Sastre.

No one wants to see a loved one have to fight for his life against cancer, or see his quality of life plummet because of heart disease. It can be scary to think that there might be something wrong with you, but denial is not the answer or a cure. Most women know this already, and are reminded in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month about that particular risk. And some men might be the exception to the rule, seeing their doctor like clockwork. But once you’ve donned your pink ribbon, performed your breast self-exam and booked your annual doctors’ visits and screening appointments, turn that loving attention to the men in your life, encouraging them to do the same for their own health.


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