Why Men Need to Get Annual Wellness Exams and Why They Don’t

By Misty Cox, FNP-C, WHNP-BC, DMG Papago Family Practice

Mature Male Friends Socializing In Backyard Together

According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic, nearly 60 percent of men do not regularly see a doctor for preventive care; instead, these men only seek a medical specialist when they are seriously ill. Of those surveyed, three in five men get annual physicals.  When asked what they regularly talk about, only seven percent said their health.  

Did you know men die an average of five years sooner than women?  Perhaps the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are 33 percent more likely than men to see a medical provider is one reason why. 

June is Men’s Health Month so let’s get to the bottom of why men are less likely to seek preventive care, how you can help the men in your life, and what men’s health screenings are recommended.

Why are men less likely to seek medical care?

An online survey commissioned by Orlando Health revealed the following reasons men do not seek medical care, with the first two being the most reported:

  • Too busy
  • Afraid of what medical condition might be discovered 
  • Not “sick enough”
  • Discomfort of the exam (i.e., prostate checks, testicular exams, colon cancer screenings, etc.)

A survey by Cleveland Clinic revealed that 19 percent of men will seek medical care to get their significant other or a loved one to “stop nagging them” about it.  

What screenings should men get and when?

Depending on age, family medical history, lifestyle, and more, a primary care provider (PCP) will recommend the following screenings and potentially other tests to support the health of a male patient. 

Blood pressure screening

Regular blood pressure screening enables early detection of pre-hypertension and/or high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart issues and stroke. 

Cholesterol level test

Men need regular cholesterol testing at age 35; those with a higher risk factor should begin testing as early as age 20. Like blood pressure issues, high cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and/or stroke if not detected early and managed through diet, exercise, and/or medication.

Colorectal exam

Both men and women should begin colorectal screenings at age 50.  Based on family history and other risks, a PCP may recommend these screenings begin earlier.

Diabetes screening

Starting at age 45, healthy men should begin diabetes screenings every three years. Testing may begin earlier for those with higher risk factors, including high cholesterol or blood pressure.

Glaucoma test

Eye tests for glaucoma are based on age and personal risk.  Generally, men should be tested as follows:

  • Under the age of 40: Every two to four years
  • Age 40-64: Every one to three years
  • Age 65+ Every six to 12 months

Prostate exam

Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common form of cancer in American men.  The American Cancer Society recommends men discuss prostate cancer screening with their PCP to make an informed decision.  Prostate cancer screening may be recommended as follows:

  • Age 50 for men at average risk with a life expectancy of >10 years
  • Age 45 for men at high risk, including African Americans and men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer under the age of 65
  • Age 40 for men at higher risk due to having more than one first degree relative (i.e., father, brothers) who had prostate cancer at an early age

Skin cancer screening

Skin cancer is one of the top cancers found in men.  Annual screenings are recommended and may be increased in frequency if skin cancer or pre-cancerous cells are found.

Testicular cancer exam

Most testicular cancers can be detected early, so a testicular exam should be part of a man’s annual health screening.