CLEVELAND, OH — June is Men’s Health Month, a national campaign which seeks to raise health awareness by encouraging healthy living decisions like exercising and eating healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that on average, men in the United States die five years earlier than women and at higher rates from heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries.
Because of these statistics, one of the most important measures men can take is to see a doctor regularly.
William Tarter knows first-hand how important a routine check-up with your primary care physician can be. Thanks to a regular prostate screening, he was able to catch prostate cancer early and was able to overcome the disease.
“I think I feel better at 70 than I did at 65,” said Tarter. “I felt like if I want to be around for my wife or my children, for my grandchildren, then I need to be going, you know, every year.”
Had Tarter neglected the annual visits, his prognosis could have been much worse. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men after skin cancer and is easily treatable if caught early.
“Seven of the 12 samples (taken during the screening) were cancerous,” said Tarter. “I had five surgeries and I’m still alive. Cancer-free, five years later.”
As a result, prostate cancer is one of the main points of emphasis for physicians such as Dr. Greg Hall from University Hospitals Cutler Center for Men.
“With cancer, you want to find it when it's small, when it's localized, and when you can take it out without really disrupting the person's lives in any sort of significant way,” Hall said.
That’s why it’s important to have a regular exam for men after turning 40-years-old. The American Cancer Society says 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
“There's a number of things, mostly with lab tests, but some with procedures that we really want to make sure we get a good early start on it,” Hall said. “So really, prevention is the key with all of these things.”
Part of that prevention is being aware of your own body and keeping track of things like blood pressure. Hall said it’s a good idea to keep a blood pressure cuff handy.
“People call it the silent killer,” Hall said. “Because you don't know your blood pressure.”
While June is also about getting men over the stigma of going to the doctor, it’s also about highlighting health disparities among racial or ethnic backgrounds.
“I have an African-American male, I need to check their hips and really need to screen them for prostate cancer. They have a much higher rate than, say, an Asian-American male,” Hall said.
Consistency is key when it comes to going to the doctor every year because it allows patients to develop a longstanding relationship with their physician that gives patients a certain comfort level when discussing medical ailments.
For Carter, he’s thankful his road to recovery started with one of those relationships.