6 questions every man should ask his doctor

Jun 26, 2023
Statistically, men are 25 per cent less likely than women to go to the doctor in the first place. Source: Getty

I’ve just booked in for my annual service.

Around July 1 every year I visit the doctor. It’s been the same routine for the past decade.

He requests a series of blood tests, checks my skin, and always tells me that I need to lose weight. 

I’m 61 now. I don’t take any medications and, apart from a bad melanoma on my right leg 15 years ago, I’m in relatively good shape.

I play golf twice a week with the same three blokes, walk the dog most days, and generally have a pretty positive outlook on life.

Lately, my golf mates have been on at me about having a colonoscopy to check the health of my bowel.

Jim, who is a walking talking medical miracle man, is – among health-related things – a bowel cancer survivor and he says that while the government bowel cancer screening tests that arrive with the mail are a great first step, they are not enough.

About 100 Australians die every week from bowel cancer. If detected early though, 9 out of 10 cases can be successfully treated. The average age at diagnosis is 69.

According to the Cancer Council, the best test for bowel cancer is a colonoscopy. This examines the length of the large bowel when air is pumped into the colon through a flexible tube that is inserted into the anus. There’s a camera on the end of the tube that allows your doctor to look for abnormal tissue that is then removed for examination.

So, after numerous well-meaning prompts from Jim, I will be asking my doctor to refer me to a specialist who can give my bowel the once-over that it deserves.

Had Jim not pushed though, I probably wouldn’t have asked for this test.

Like most men, I don’t have an open conversation with my doctor. I don’t ask a lot of questions, and for whatever reason, I don’t share much about what’s been happening with my body. According to Dr Joshua Kosowsky, who co-authored the book When Doctors Don’t Listen, that’s normal.

“Men don’t want to talk about feeling something in their testicles or having rectal bleeding,” he writes.

He goes on to say that statistically, men are 25 per cent less likely than women to go to the doctor in the first place.

So, what questions should I be asking, and what tests should I be asking for?

  1. Men between 40 and 70 should be having an annual prostate check. Unlike breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening programs, Australia has no government-sponsored prostate screening program. That’s surprising as prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 24,000 diagnosed with it every year. Of those, about 3500 will die.
  2. Blood pressure and cholesterol screening are important. According to the Heart Foundation, high blood pressure is a primary risk factor for heart disease and some people can have alarming high blood pressure without exhibiting any obvious symptoms. So, regular check-ups are advised. It’s the same with cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  3. Why am I urinating so often? According to the good folk at Harvard University, painful or frequent urination is a common problem for older men – usually caused by urinary tract infections, kidney stones and prostate problems. Peeing a lot is also a sign of diabetes.
  4. Why have my sleep patterns changed? Poor sleep contributes to many health problems and reduces your quality of life as you get older. According to the Sleep Foundation, conditions that affect sleep in older people include depression, heart disease, diabetes, and things like arthritis.
  5. What’s happened to my libido? According to Men’s Health website Pilot, once you have reached 60 your body is going through changes that affect how sexually active you can be. The most common physical changes include lower-quality erections; reduced ejaculation volume; and lower overall sexual function. It makes common sense, but the experts say that the healthier you are in mind, body and soul, the better your sex life will be.
  6. There are no dumb questions. If you are worried about anything at all, speak up. Some of us will spend only 10-15 minutes a year with a doctor, so make the most of your time. Before you visit, write down things that you are worried about and make sure you discuss them. “You have to get over the reluctance to open up to your doctors,’’ Kosowsky says. “You have to advocate for yourself.”

After the doctor, I’m off to the optometrist and the dentist. Hopefully, I get the all-clear and can start making plans for the next year.

Wish me luck!

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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