Shining a spotlight on men’s health
From birth, males suffer from more illness and accidents than their female counterparts.
These statistics highlight the need for open and honest conversations between GPs and their male patients, but this is often easier said than done. Dr Charlotte Middleton talks about several common issues affecting men and how GPs can help manage and prevent these.
The state of men’s health in Australia
Most of us have a least one significant male figure in our lives, and a recent national survey indicates that it’s the “little things” we would mourn the most if a man close to us died. From birth, males suffer more illness and more accidents than their female counterparts. Tragically, men take their own lives at four times the rate of women.
Common diseases affecting men
The three most common diseases affecting men in Australia are prostate cancer, testicular cancer and poor mental health; largely preventable conditions that in some cases, can be avoided with the delivery of suitable healthcare. The key barrier is overcoming the stigma related to illness, which impacts how patients communicate with and engage their GP.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and the third most common cause of cancer death. A staggering one in five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85. While age and genetics are the dominant causes of prostate cancer, a diet high in fat and low in fresh fruit and vegetable also plays a part. GPs are highly trusted as providers of nutrition advice. Despite this, medical appointments aren’t often used to deliver nutrition advice or refer patients to other healthcare practitioners to manage diet.
A big challenge for patients and doctors alike is the overwhelming amount of often contradictory advice available on nutrition. As GPs we can focus on proactively advising patients on appropriate nutrition to support their broader health. Doctors are encouraged to consult the RACGP guidelines, designed to assist GPs when working with patients on certain lifestyle risk factors including poor nutrition and diet.
Testicular cancer is the most common cause of cancer in young men aged 18 to 39. The rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has grown by more than 50 percent over the past 30 years, the reason for which is not known. While testicular self-examinations are in large part the responsibility of the patient, GPs should ensure their patients are well informed of all symptoms of testicular cancer and annual physical examinations should be encouraged.
Poor mental health
Around one in eight Australian men experience depression, while one in five will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Suicide rates for men are three times higher than for women. Despite this, men have lower levels of awareness of depression and are less likely to seek help when compared to women.
Open and honest conversations are one of the most effective prevention measures for poor mental health in men, but again they’re easier said than done.
GPs need to ensure they’re creating a comfortable environment free of assumptions or judgement, where men are more likely to open up about how they’re feeling. Mental health care plans are an important step in treating mental health and every patient’s case will be unique.
Movember is an annual event where men are encouraged to grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of the state of men’s health. A fun initiative dealing with a very serious issue. To support the cause visit au.movember.com.