Think you’re too macho for a check-up? Think again. Health screenings are vital for detecting diseases that men are more vulnerable to, many of which do not produce early warning signs. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.
The longstanding stereotype of men who feel reluctant about visiting the doctor, unfortunately, rings true even in this time and age. Whether it’s because they think they’re too macho to seek help or that they’re uncomfortable about showing vulnerability, this sort of behaviour can result in health risks over time.
Dr. Cheryl Latha Glenn, medical director of SATA CommHealth, says: “Younger men often feel that health screenings are not important. Depending on their risk factors and family histories, health screening is often found to be highly beneficial. They’re vital for detecting diseases that men are more vulnerable to, many of which do not produce early warning signs.”
Wondering which health screenings, you should be going for? Here’s a quick guide.
Key diseases that affect men more than women in Singapore
According to the Ministry of Health, cancer and ischaemic heart diseases are among the top three principal causes of death in Singapore. Men are more vulnerable to liver, kidney, and pancreatic cancer—these three are among the top ten most common cancers affecting men. Ischaemic heart disease killed 62 percent more men than women in 2019, which is the largest difference when comparing to other cardiovascular diseases that cause more death in men than women.
Age 20 and above
Young adult men should prioritise basic health screenings every year so that they can use the results to review their lifestyles and make early changes to significantly protect their health in the long term. If they have a family history of particular diseases, it will be prudent to be screened for these diseases.
Age 30 and above
Men in their 30s should look out for key risk factors that might indicate the necessity to screen early for certain diseases. For example, while screening for diabetes should start at 40 years, if the individual has risk factors like obesity and a family history of diabetes, he should start screening at 30 years of age.
Age 40 and above
Men approaching middle age should screen for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia because early management of these diseases is crucial. This can allow for some lifestyle changes to keep the diseases under control without requiring medications, in some cases.
Age 50 and above
Once men hit their 50s, they should screen for colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and ischaemic heart disease. When diagnosed early, it allows for better management and better outcomes.
One thing most men don’t know about health screenings
Most don’t realise that early detection could make the difference between life and death. For example, ischaemic heart diseases, if diagnosed early, can be lifesaving. Those with increased risk are sometimes advised to do a stress treadmill test and may even be recommended for a CT angiogram.
When it comes to liver cancer, current guidelines advise routine screening for those at higher risk (cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis B infection). These patients need to annually do a liver ultrasound and six monthly blood tests for liver function tests including alpha-fetoprotein, a tumour marker for liver cancer.
Teleconsultations during the ongoing pandemic
Due to the pandemic’s stay-home restrictions, many chronic patients have adopted teleconsultations, as it is efficient and effective. Dr. Glenn said: “Our mobile app, SATA, enables users to receive medical consultations conveniently in a comfortable and safe environment. The teleconsultation will be conducted via video, with our doctors and nurses providing their diagnosis virtually, before prescribing medication and providing medical certificates when appropriate. Some chronic conditions suitable for teleconsultation include hypertension, diabetes, gout.
More information here.
As the medical director of SATA CommHealth, Dr. Cheryl Latha Glenn has a key interest in chronic illness care, in particular diabetes as well as holistic care for the elderly. She graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. She also holds a Graduate Diploma in Family Medicine, from the National University of Singapore.