For some men, going to the doctor makes sense when something’s wrong. They may not always remember that seeing a health care provider can help prevent a problem before it turns into one. For Men’s Health Month in June, ThedaCare providers want to encourage men to schedule their yearly wellness visit.
“I think men in particular sometimes believe that there’s no reason to go in to see a doctor if they feel healthy,” said Dr. Nicole Ruske, a Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Medical Center–Shawano. “Those wellness visits are important because that is our opportunity to look for conditions that they might not notice or feel.”
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the biggest issues that might not be accompanied by symptoms explained Dr. Ruske. If left unchecked, is also an issue that can lead to serious problems such as heart attack, stroke or aneurysm.
During a wellness visit, providers will walk men through the benefits of screenings, vaccinations and tips to live a healthy lifestyle. They will also check vitals like blood pressure, pulse and weight.
“Many of the most common diseases can be controlled or mitigated if caught early, and many are asymptomatic in their early stages” said Dr. Ruske. “That’s why I encourage people of all ages, including men, to have a yearly checkup that involves routine blood work. If we can diagnose these health issues early, we can potentially reduce their impact on someone’s life.”
At the wellness visit, providers also will screen for alcohol and tobacco use.
“One of the best things we can do for our health is to stop using those tobacco and nicotine products,” she said.
At the standard wellness visit, there are also additional screenings men should consider to help them keep tabs on their health, including:
Colon cancer screening starting at age 45, which is a recent change from the previously recommended age of 50. A growing number of younger people are being diagnosed with colon cancer, and studies show that screening earlier can help catch the disease before it reaches advanced states, Dr. Ruske said. While a colonoscopy is still the gold standard for screening, some at-home tests can provide a non-invasive option to some people who are considered low-risk.
Prostate cancer screening, starting as early as age 40 or as late as age 50, depending on family history or other risk factors. “We need to have a conversation with each patient about those risks and benefits and come up with a plan that’s best for them,” Dr. Ruske said.
Lung cancer screening for those who are at high risk of developing the disease, particularly longtime smokers. A new low-dose CT scan is used to detect early lung cancers in those patients.
Staying current on vaccination and booster recommendations including COVID-19, influenza and pertussis (whooping cough). The shingles vaccine is also recommended starting at age 50.
“It’s important for men to speak with their health care provider about specific health needs,” said Dr. Ruske. “Sharing your medical and family history, personal preferences, and lifestyle with your provider is also important to help them develop a health plan that is best for you.”
More recently, wellness visits are putting a focus on mental health as well.
“Especially with the pandemic, we’ve seen that men and teenagers have struggled with depression, or just mood generally — feeling more down and unmotivated, or lower-energy,” Dr. Ruske said. “Wellness visits give us the opportunity to connect with men and provide screenings, trying to reach more people and determine if help is needed.”
If there’s a man in your life who is reluctant to visit the doctor, sometimes a little support and encouragement might help, explain that you care about them and that is why their health is important.
“Family support is key,” said Dr. Ruske. “So, give him a gentle nudge and encourage him to make that yearly visit with his provider.”
Dr. Ruske wants all people, including men, to feel empowered to stay in control of their health.
“We want our community members to feel comfortable discussing health issues with a provider,” she said. “Your health belongs to you; you should cherish it and work toward staying healthy for as long as possible for the benefit of you and your family.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.