Prostate cancer remains the highest diagnosed malignancy among men and second only to female breast cancer among US diagnoses.
Despite the glaring statistics, it would likely come as no surprise if someone told you that they heard a man say: “Given the choice between prostate cancer and having a prostate exam, I’d choose prostate cancer.”
Though this wouldn’t be shocking it would be off-putting, especially if said by a father, brother, son or friend. It’s as the old adage goes: Out of sight out of mind, and things simply don’t get much more out of sight than the location of a man’s prostate, not to mention, where his doctor must go to examine it. The latter condition almost certainly forces a man’s prostate, and the risk he might assume by avoiding the exam, even further out of mind than does the prostate’s ‘invisibility’ and imperceptible positioning among the anatomy of – “where the sun don’t shine”.
These kinds of attitudes towards our own health and well-being – especially when rooted in fears associated with stigmas or stereotypes (i.e. Dentists aren’t really that scary) – aren’t always as benign as we may think. And as far as we intend Real Wellness to be a resource for health and wellness, we know that understanding and information are the best way to create attitudes that lead to health and wellness outcomes.
In honor of September being Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Real Wellness is sharing a few facts and tips that may help men feel more comfortable about talking to their doctor about prostate exams and about enduring the exam itself. This is often a critical first step towards reducing risk and towards ensuring that the best treatment is received if treatment becomes necessary.
Beat the anxiety of the unknown with information.
Often we measure and evaluate that which we don’t know about a process based on what we do know, no matter how limited what we know may be. Aside from creating misconceptions, this often leads to anxiety and fear – primarily, fear of the unknown. The best way to get past such fear is to attain (the correct) information. Learning what takes place, and how to communicate with their doctors, during a prostate exam is a great way for men over 50 to begin the process of best managing their prostate health.
Assess your risk.
Healthcare is increasingly becoming a 2-way street in the sense that patients are taking a more proactive role in their own care with support from their doctors to do so. The amount of medical information accessible via the web, apps and smart devices is more vast than ever before (and growing more rapidly than ever before). With just the click of a button a man can learn how much risk he may face relative to certain illnesses and diseases. For example, African American men and men who have instances of prostate cancer in their family histories are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer than their counterparts in other subgroups. It is recommended that men in these higher-risk categories begin having prostate exams at age 40, ten years earlier than the suggested age for men not in groups associated with higher risk-factors.
Prostate Cancer Statistics Courtesy of ProtectingOurHealth.com
Know the resources.
Though the amount of information available today can be an asset, it can also be a detriment if not reviewed thoroughly and carefully. Men should talk to their doctors about where and how to source information and to connect with credible resources. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to helping medical science eradicate the disease and to helping men be aware of and in reach of what they need to survive the disease if they are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The information they provide on prostate cancer screening is wide-ranging and could prove helpful to men who aren’t diagnosed, but who should be preparing to be screened.
Fear and funny don’t mix; there’s no need to take things so seriously.
One thing the “mass perception” regarding prostate exams fails to highlight is the fact that the exam only lasts about one minute. Yes, that’s a mere 60 seconds! A minute that could possibly save a man’s life. In fact, some patients who are able to remained relaxed during the exam can be examined in even less time. As one tip suggests: allowing the mind to wander from what is happening in the exam room, by focusing on a memory or a hobby (e.g. a great vacation experience or woodcarving) can be a great way to get through the exam “without even knowing it began”. And for any men out there that might claim that they don’t have a hobby or a great memory to focus on – tell them to be like the Echo Tool Guy!