Tough it out! Walk it off! Rub some dirt on it! From the time they’re little boys, guys are often encouraged to be strong and avoid showing weakness in many areas of their lives, from the playing field to dealing with their emotions. But when you become a man, it’s time to leave those simplistic ideas behind.
“Taking care of your health needs to be a priority, both for you and the people in your life who rely on you,” says Leonard G. Gomella, MD, FACS, Chair of the Department of Urology at Jefferson, Co-Leader of the Prostate Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, and Clinical Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Network. “Ignoring a health issue for too long is a bad strategy, because you may miss the chance to catch a serious problem early when it’s still highly treatable.”
Even if you’re still young, it’s important to stay vigilant about your health and any changes you may experience that could be a warning sign. Here three important areas to monitor.
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that your testicles are important. They’re the oval-shaped organs that sit in a sac called the scrotum below your penis. Their job is to produce and store sperm, which is how you pass along your DNA to the next generation. They also produce testosterone, the hormone that is responsible for all of your secondary sexual characteristics like your body shape, body and facial hair, and musculature.
They can also be a source of health issues, which is why you should monitor them.
“Younger men, usually between 18 and 35 years of age, are at the highest risk level for testicular cancer, although testicular cancer can be seen throughout life,” said Dr. Gomella. “The best approach is to perform a monthly self-exam in the shower to look for abnormalities.”
They should feel smooth and round without any lumps or bumps. And don’t be fooled by the epididymis, which lies on top and slightly behind the testicle – it’s soft to the touch and shouldn’t be mistaken for a lump.
The prostate is a small organ located around the urethra just below the bladder, and its job is to add fluid to your semen that contains enzymes, and other compounds to support sperm as they leave the body.
Getting your prostate checked, which usually involves a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, helps to detect prostate cancer. It’s rare in men under the age of 50, but could be important when you’re younger if you’re African American or have a family history.
“The five-year survival rate for all men with prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent when caught early,” says Dr. Gomella. “You should speak with your doctor to determine if and when a prostate screening exam is right for you.”
Your Mental Health
Mental health and emotional well-being are areas that many men avoid, but it’s just as important for them as it is for anyone else. Daily stress, tragic life events, and relationship problems can create a lot of wear and tear. It’s important to have an outlet and sounding board when you need it.
Many men feel uncomfortable talking about their feelings, when in reality their friends are more than willing to listen when there’s a problem. By breaking this cycle of silence, you can help stop other challenges related to it, such as depression and suicide. Three out of 4 suicides are carried out by men.
Talking to friends about your feelings is important, but so is knowing when to seek professional help. If you experience mood changes, lose your appetite, lose interest in things that make you happy, and have trouble sleeping or feel fatigue for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor.