This month’s Nuffield Health advice column focusses on men’s health matters
Men have a poor reputation when it comes to looking after their own health. But there are five key health issues and their symptoms men simply can’t afford to ignore.
On average, men see a GP half as often as women do, but British men are paying the price for neglecting their health, as more than 100,000 die prematurely every year. It’s important to be aware of changes to your health, and to see your GP immediately if you notice something that’s not right.
Here are the top 5 things men need to look out for:
A lump on your testicle
Testicular cancer is unusual in the fact that it most commonly affects younger men, aged 15 to 44. Over 2,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year in the UK, and regular self-examination is recommended. If you notice a lump or swelling in your testicles, or feel a heaviness or dull ache in your scrotum, see your GP. Most testicular lumps are not cancer, but it is essential to have any abnormalities checked. Early detection gives you a much higher chance of a positive outcome.
Check your moles regularly and be aware of any change in colour or shape, or if they start bleeding. Most changes are harmless and are due to a non-cancerous increase of pigment cells in the skin. See your GP if a mole looks unusual or becomes itchy. It can then be checked and removed if necessary. To minimise your risk of skin cancer, avoid exposure to the sun between 11am and 3pm. Cover up and use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 when you’re in the sun.
If you’re depressed, you may lose interest in things you used to enjoy. If you have been feeling this way for some time, contact your GP. Depression is a real illness with real effects on your work, social and family life. Treatment usually involves a combination of self-help, talking therapies and drugs. Depression is more common in women, but men are far more likely to commit suicide. This may be because men are more reluctant to seek help. Financial stress, job insecurity, redundancy and debt can all affect your mental wellbeing, but the simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can be an enormous help.
Most men have problems getting or keeping an erection (impotence) at some point. See your GP if your erection problems last for several weeks. It’s not just your sexual health that could be at risk. Impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction, can be a sign of more serious conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Generally, lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and exercise, can correct the problem, although some men may need medication such as Sildenafil (more commonly known as Viagra).
When the prostate is enlarged, it can press on the tube that carries urine from the bladder. This can make it hard to pass urine, which can be a sign of prostate disease, including cancer. In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. More than 30,000 men are diagnosed with it every year. Other symptoms include pain or burning when you pass urine and frequently waking up in the night to visit the bathroom. If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP. Every man has a prostate gland and it’s crucial to your sex life. Get to know your prostate and what can go wrong with it.
‘Are you waking up to the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?’
Conversations about a man’s prostate are usually very embarrassing or uncomfortable for anyone. However, with Men’s Health Week coming up, Bristol Consultant Urologist Professor Raj Persad is promoting the awareness of symptoms and treatments surrounding this topic to get men talking.
Despite thousands of men suffering from it on a daily basis, an enlarged prostate isn’t exactly the usual choice of conversation over a pint at your local pub. The condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) does not occur because of the presence of cancer, but due to the fact the prostate continues to grow throughout most of a man’s adult life. The condition itself is not a threat to a man’s health, but it can have a dramatic impact on the quality of life for an individual.
BPH puts pressure on the bladder causing a variety of symptoms including; having difficulty when starting to urinate; a weak urine flow (stopping and starting); a sensation of not fully emptying your bladder and even having to urinate more frequently (especially at night), subsequently disrupting your sleeping patterns, and likewise that of your partner. A midnight trip to the bathroom is never warmly welcomed by anyone.
“A new treatment called UroLift avoids the invasiveness of surgery and the unwanted side effects of tablets…”
Consultant Professor Persad told us: “Sometimes presentation of prostate cancer can mimic the symptoms of BPH, so I advise you to consult your GP at the earliest opportunity to be sure. As for treatment for BPH, the mainstream therapy to date has been tablets for milder forms of prostatic obstruction, or surgery for the more severe.
“Surgery can be fraught with side-effects – excessive bleeding, incontinence, and sexual problems – whilst tablets may be ineffective or cause sexual function problems.”
There is, however, a revolutionary technique available which is suitable for most men, bringing relief, improved quality of life, and minimal side-effects.
Professor Persad explains: “A new treatment called UroLift avoids the invasiveness of surgery and the unwanted side effects of tablets. It involves no blood loss or ‘cutting’ and takes 10-15 minutes for implants to be inserted into the prostate, prising open the prostatic urethra, restoring urinary flow and satisfactory bladder function.
“It is being hailed as the new minimally invasive treatment of the future for the majority of those with troublesome symptoms due to BPH, and only in rare cases with atypical prostate anatomy is Urolift unsuitable.”
UroLift is available at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, and patients can usually be in and out of hospital within the same day. The treatment is increasing in popularity as men can be put off by traditional surgical methods for fear of becoming impotent.
Our urology services at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield are provided by the Bristol Urology Associates. Bristol Urology comprises of a committed team of surgeons at the forefront of modern urological care, providing a range of men’s health treatments including:
Incontinence • Kidney stones
Male infertility • Hernia repair
Prostate surgery • Vasectomy
Vasectomy reversal • Urological cancers
Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest not-for-profit healthcare organisation, and its core aim is to make the nation healthier. For more information about the full range of Men’s Health treatments available at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, visit nuffieldhealth.com or call 0117 911 5339 to book an appointment.