Why Men Need Annual Exams
If I feel good, why should I see a doctor? That’s a common question among men when it comes to healthcare and seeing a primary care doctor.
In fact, one-third of American men do not think they need an annual health screening, according to a 2022 national survey. On top of that, the survey results indicate nearly two-thirds of men believe they are naturally healthier than others in general (which is mathematically impossible!). And when something is wrong, two of five men get medical advice from social media.
Why are annual exams important for men?
An annual check-up is one of the best ways you can take care of yourself. It is preventive in nature – it can help reduce your risk of illness in the future. This yearly exam is a way for your doctor to look at your current health status, identify areas of concern such as high cholesterol or blood pressure, and suggest lifestyle changes that will help you live your best life.
“Men should not wait until they experience instances of pain or discomfort to see their primary care physician,” said Sohaib Saddiqui, MD, a family medicine physician with Lifespan Physician Group Primary Care in Warwick. “Preventative health is extremely important in order to maintain a good quality of life and to lower health risks in the future.”
A yearly checkup is also an opportunity for you to discuss any concerns you have, no matter how small or embarrassing they might seem. Talking to your doctor openly and honestly and asking questions is the best way to care for yourself.
It’s also important for your doctor to have your full medical history because your risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer increases when members of your family have been affected. Building a relationship with a physician you know and trust will benefit both of you.
What to expect at an annual exam
An annual physical exam is painless. There are several parts to an annual exam. Some take place at your doctor’s office while others may require screening exams or lab work for testing blood. Here’s what you can expect at your yearly check-up.
The physical exam
During the physical exam, the doctor will check your height and weight, and calculate your body mass index to determine your weight range and whether your weight places you at risk for disease.
Your blood pressure and pulse will also be measured and an exam known as an electrocardiogram may be performed to check the health of your heart and identify any signs that you are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
The doctor will also listen to your lungs to check your airways. Your eyes, throat and lymph nodes will also be examined, and the doctor may even do a skin exam to check for any unusual growths or suspicious moles.
Men should also be prepared for other gender-specific exams, including:
- A testicular exam to check for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men ages 20 to 34, and an exam can help to identify it early.
- A prostate exam that allows the physician to feel the prostate through the rectum and check for lumps or other signs of disease. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and catching it sooner rather than later provides the best hope for cure.
Questionnaire and interview
One of the key parts of an annual exam is the health questionnaire. It is important that you answer these questions accurately and honestly. Your doctor will also ask you questions during your exam about your lifestyle habits and any signs or symptoms you may be experiencing that could indicate a problem. Combined with a physical exam, your responses to the health questionnaire and the interview questions will provide your doctor with an overview of your health and can indicate the need for further tests or diagnostic exams.
When it comes to disease, the earlier it’s found, the more treatable it is and the more likely your chance of survival. That’s why screening tests are so important. Your doctor will refer you for screenings based on age or other factors. Typical screenings include:
- Colonoscopy. It is recommended that screening for colorectal cancer now begin at age 45, or earlier if you have a family history. Colonoscopy is a procedure that not only checks for colorectal cancer, but also allows the surgeon to remove any polyps that could develop into cancer before they have a chance.
- Prostate cancer screening. Your doctor may recommend a blood test to check your levels of a chemical produced by the prostate known as a prostate specific antigen (PSA). Higher levels of PSA may indicate the presence of cancer and can help diagnose the disease early.
- Lung cancer screening. A CT scan is recommended for smokers or past smokers to check their lungs for signs of lung cancer in its early stages, when it’s most treatable. You can learn whether lung cancer screening is right for you here.
Every man should be tested at least once in his lifetime for Hepatitis C and HIV. Beyond that, tests for other infectious diseases are performed on an as-needed basis based on signs and symptoms or risk factors in some individuals.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that involves high sugar levels in the blood and has far-reaching effects on the body. In fact, many individuals have undiagnosed pre-diabetes and screening can identify the condition so it can be managed to avoid the complications it can cause. This is measured through a blood test.
Your blood cholesterol levels are a key indicator of your heart health. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, but lifestyle changes can help lower your numbers and reduce your risk.
With few exceptions, all men should get a COVID-19 vaccination or any necessary boosters. An annual flu vaccine is key to staying healthy as well. There are also several immunizations that are recommended based on age, such as HPV, shingles, and pneumonia. Your doctor can discuss these vaccines and their risks and benefits with you.
Benefits of an annual exam
Annual exams take about an hour, are covered by insurance, and provide numerous benefits.
- You can get to know your physician and develop a level of comfort that allows you to talk freely.
- Enjoy peace of mind and feel at ease knowing you’re taking care of yourself and addressing health issues that may arise.
- By seeing your doctor regularly, you’re more likely to stay up to date on screenings and immunizations.
- You and your doctor can identify issues early when they are most treatable.
A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs of depression. Together, you can discuss treatment options. Learn more about depression and other tips for staying healthy.
Men want to take care of their families, but that means you must keep yourself healthy. Along with seeing your doctor for annual visits, there are healthy lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of chronic disease and keep you feeling great.
If you haven’t seen your doctor in over a year, make an appointment today. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can find a primary care provider to get you on the road to better health.
About the Author:
Lifespan Blog Team
The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.
Lifespan Living Newsletter
Find a Doctor
The right provider is in our network
Search more than 1,200 providers in our network.