Health Break | Published June 13, 2005 | Written by Michael Archer

Health Concerns Of Young Men Need Attention

In response to National Men’s Health Week, June 13-19, I would like to address the issue of awareness. Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day, and it focuses on recognizing and preventing men’s health problems. It appears that on many levels men are not as in tune to their health as women usually are with theirs. This lack of awareness seems to manifest itself in the publicity surrounding men’s health issues, and the way men manage their health. For instance, the public awareness that breast cancer receives is much greater than prostate cancer and, in general, men are usually reactive in their healthcare, whereas women usually tend to be more proactive. Men tend to deal with an illness when they “get it,” whereas women throughout their lives get pap smears and mammograms in an attempt at early detection. Young men are usually the group that is least likely to take correct care of their health. Reflection raises awareness, so I hope Men’s Health Week encourages men, particularly young males, to think about taking actions for the benefit of their health. In this article, I will focus on some common men’s health problems. Testicular cancer and smokeless tobacco are issues relevant to teens and young men. I will present some things to think about, but the other side of the “awareness coin” is talking about it. I know this is where men’s health parts ways with women’s health, but after we think about these issues we need to talk to each other, our wives, our mothers, and, most importantly, our healthcare providers. Testicular cancer is the “young man’s cancer.” It is most common between 15 and 35 years of age. It can be a killer, but if detected early it is manageable or even curable. Talking about finding a testicular lump may be awkward, but men should not hesitate to consult with their doctors about this. After all, what is worse – being embarrassed or dealing with a serious disease that has been left unchecked? Men have to think about and talk about their health to change statistics on morbidity and mortality. The testicular cancer resource center or the FDA can provide important details and facts, including how to do self-examinations. The Web sites are http://tcrc.acor.org and www.fda.gov/fdac/features/196_test.html. Smokeless tobacco should not require much thought, but it does. The prevalence of this habit in rural areas, such as central Pennsylvania, is a testament to the strength of ideologies, like traditions, peer pressure, social acceptance, rites-of-passage, and father- son relationships. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using smokeless tobacco. The cons are that smokeless tobacco rots your teeth; recedes your gums; is implicated in cancer; contributes to artery disease, including heart disease and erectile dysfunction; and is expensive. On the pros side is possibly one little positive – nicotine can have a calming effect (although this helps make it more addictive than heroin). This comparison should not require much thought. I know of a documented case of a man in his early 40s experiencing erectile dysfunction that is probably attributable to smokeless tobacco use. Forty-something is awfully young to be worrying about erectile dysfunction because of a useless habit. The teenagers who have started the habit of using smokeless tobacco need to understand that the changes that cause cancer, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction are occurring now. You are currently harming your health, and the effects often manifest after it is too late to avoid a serious health problem. Finally, talk to your physician about oral cancers and tobacco cessation. In my opinion, oral cancers are some of the most disfiguring, aggressive, terrible cancers a person can get. Verify my opinions with your physician; I bet he or she would agree. The following Web site offers a cessation program and some horrific pictures of the effects of oral cancer – www.stopsmokeless.com. Michael Archer is a clinical laboratory science educator for Mount Nittany Medical Center and Penn State University.

The Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament raised $150,000 for the new Cancer Center.

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