During June, the national designation as Men’s Health Month helps highlight the need for men to advocate for their own health and that of the men in their lives. For Men’s Health Week, which runs June 13 to 19, Minority Nurse turned to an expert in men’s health to explore some of the top health issues and concerns facing men.
What are some of the top health concerns for men today and what are some of the implications if they are not treated properly?
There are many health concerns for men. Many of them have been around for a long period of time, such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. When those aren’t taken care of, there are significant health concerns and possible risks that can occur for men. Another topic that is gaining a lot of attention for men in low testosterone and testosterone replacement therapy. There are so many commercials for products that are supposed to help with low testosterone levels and increasing activity and stamina. Issues with men taking these supplements without needing them can lead to increased cholesterol, increased risk of stroke and heart disease as well as sleep apnea. It can also lead to increased aggression.
What are some of the barriers to addressing men’s health problems? Men often don’t seek health care until things are in advanced stages. Too often, men feel that they are invincible until something brings their health down. Men feel that being sick brings down their invincibility. Men too often don’t know enough about their own health and healthcare, so they don’t advocate enough for themselves.
As the number of male nurses increases, how can their care have a positive impact on men’s health specifically?
I think by increasing the number of men in nursing will allow us to better get men involved in the healthcare system. Men in nursing understand many of the barriers to care-seeking behaviors that make it difficult for men to seek healthcare. We can provide education about specific diseases and their progression to help men better understand their care. Men typically want as much information as they can get so that they can manage their health on their own. By understanding this, men in nursing can help educate these needs to their colleagues.
As a nurse, what do you want patients to know about men’s health and what are some warning signs for them to pay attention to?
I would want men to understand that they have a lot of control of their own health. They need to take ownership of their healthcare. They need to be involved in their own health and healthcare. We can’t leave it up to others to make healthcare decisions for us. Some of the biggest warning signs to look out for regarding their own health are activity levels and how they are able to tolerate activity and if they notice increased hunger and thirst.
What would you like male nursing students or early career nurses to know about this career that would’ve helped you when you were a novice?
The advice that I give my current students is to take advantage of any opportunity that they have. This will allow them to get support and mentorship from areas outside of their organization or unit. I also tell them not to get drawn up into the drama that often occurs on their units. Finally, they need to protect themselves. Too often, men are used to help with lifting and transferring patients. This can put a strain on their bodies. They need to do many things to protect themselves from injury. They also need to learn how to work in areas where they are often the minority. The best thing that they can do is to maintain a professional demeanor at all times.
Men’s Health Month is recognized every June, but it’s not a month exclusively for men. Men’s Health Month is an opportunity for men to learn more about their own health and how to protect it, but it’s also a time when women who have men in their lives—partners, husbands, brothers, fathers, friends, sons, mentors—can help support their healthy efforts.
By age group, the patterns are clear. Men aged 1-44 die most often from unintentional injuries. From ages, 45 to 84, cancer takes over as the leading killer of all men. For men aged 85 and older, heart disease is the top threat.
While heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injury cause untold suffering, there are steps men can take throughout their lives to help improve their health and lessen their chances of dying early.
Heart disease is a top killer worldwide and is often a silent disease, sometimes striking without other overt symptoms. It can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure.
Some common health problems are significant contributors to heart disease. The American Heart Association points to heart disease risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and obesity as contributing to the condition. Cancer is often caused by similar or the same triggers. According to the American Cancer Society, some cancer risk can be mitigated with healthier lifestyle choices and habits. Smoking, obesity, diet, activity level, and screening and vaccinations can help prevent some cancers.
As the third leading cause of death for men, unintentional injury seems like one that is out of the control of most people. But there are ways to incorporate safety measures into day-to-day life that will help men stay safer.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says the complexities around what causes an unintentional injury can have roots deep in social issues. But individuals can take steps to keep themselves physically safe in many instances. Alcohol and drug use can play a major role in events that lead to an unintentional injury, as can safety and anti-violence measures in the home and neighborhood environment.
Some easy fixes are never swimming alone, always wearing a seatbelt, making sure there are no loose rugs or other fall or trip hazards at home, careful home improvement activities, nurturing relationships, and not texting or being distracted while driving. Other factors are much harder to remedy easily including equitable access to reliable healthcare and emergency services, as well as perceptions and attitudes toward violence.
As men strive to live healthier lives and take control over the factors that can impact their short- and long-term health, beginning with what they are able to control is the first step.
Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men (skin cancer is first), with the American Cancer Society estimating 161,360 new cases in 2017. A nurse’s role in prostate cancer awareness, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment is essential. As a professional nurse, a loved one, friend, or peer, nurses are on the front lines. They have the knowledge to help people identify what’s going on and have the resources and expertise to help them with treatment options and cutting-edge developments.
Leanne Schimke, MSN, FNP-C, CRNP, CUNP, works with urology patients in private practice and also with the Lancaster Rehab Hospital, and uses Prostate Cancer Awareness Month as a great opportunity to inform people about the disease. Of all things a patient might hear, getting any kind of life changing diagnosis like a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. A nurse can help educate patients and also offer support. “Nurses need to understand it will take multiple discussions for the patient to retain the information,” says Schimke. “It is helpful to include family members and correct any misconceptions.”
Involving the patient and their loved ones in discussions helps ensure that the information will be understood and retained. Nurses can help patients by answering their questions, of which they probably have many, and making sure they know where to find additional reliable and accurate information. Surfing the internet for information about prostate cancer treatment and prognosis isn’t going to give them the information a nurse can. “I help provide context on information they obtain through the Internet, friends and family,” says Schimke, “such as helping them understand if a certain treatment is an option for them, especially at later stages of disease progression.”
And she also acts as a reference. She encourages patients and their loved ones to write down questions and to understand that while they can’t delay treatment decisions, they should not rush into them. They can take the time to choose the best option for them, and they have time to get a second opinion. “I help them have realistic expectations – some assume when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer they are going to die soon when that is not the case – and in others I need to help them understand that their time is limited. I am a contact for patients to answer their questions and help with their symptoms.”
Schimke also helps dispel the many myths about prostate cancer. Prostate cancer may not be the leading cause of cancer deaths in men, but it is a killer. “I would like to discuss the statement ‘no one dies from prostate cancer,’” she says. “Approximately 14 to 20 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will progress and die from advanced prostate cancer and not another cause. This statement trivializes prostate cancer and may lead men to make decisions that are not in their best interest.”
As a nurse working closely with patients, Schimke is able to work with men and notice signs of the disease’s progression. “When left untreated in an advanced stage, prostate cancer can spread to other bones in the body, which is difficult to treat and can impact survival,” she says. But there are new options for patients. “There are many treatments for prostate cancer depending on the stage of the prostate cancer when diagnosed,” Schimke says. “Our goal is to hopefully cure the cancer if at an early stage, but if it is metastatic at diagnosis, we want to maintain their quality of life and prolong their life through the various treatment options that are available.” One new option is a short-range radioactive treatment that kills cancer cells in men whose cancer has been resistant to medical and surgical treatments. They may have metastasized cancer that has spread but the spread is limited to the bones. Called Xofigo, the option can help extend the life of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients.
What can men who do not have prostate cancer do to protect their health? Schimke says getting a PSA test is important. While some men think the test isn’t useful, Schimke says the test is a screening tool, not a diagnostic tool, that can spot potential red flags in men who are at high risk of prostate cancer or those in the 55- to 70-year-old age range who feel they would like the test and understand it. “PSA testing should be done in men with a high risk for prostate cancer, such as men who have a father or brother that has had prostate cancer,” she says. “The American Urological Association has guidelines for which men should be tested.” And while the test results might lead to a biopsy to rule out cancer, the biopsy isn’t always going to come back positive.
And if men do get a cancer diagnosis, each case is very different and finding a reliable and knowledgeable healthcare team with expert urology and oncology teams working together is essential. “Not all prostate cancer needs to be treated,” says Schimke. “Many men can be followed and treated only if their prostate cancer progresses.”
Are you or others in your workplace taking part in Movember (“Moustache” plus “November”), a global men’s health event? Males pledge to grow their ‘staches for the month, getting donations from friends, family and co-workers in the process. In effect, they become a walking, talking billboard in order to raise awareness and money to address men’s health issues.
Participants are nicknamed “Mo Bros” and they’re often aided by “Mo Sistas.” Their aim is to shine a spotlight on men’s diseases, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer — the obvious ones — and the not so obvious ones, such as depression and suicide.
Getting “mind share” isn’t easy as there are many other worthy health organizations trying to do the same thing. According to Healthfinder.gov, November is a busy National Health Observance month. Here are just some of the events we’re celebrating this month:Lung Cancer Awareness Month; Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month; American Diabetes Month; National Epilepsy Awareness Month; Great American Smokeout (American Cancer Society); American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month, and so on.
The Aussies who started Movember in 2003 just for fun, then saw the power to do good using humor and the power of brotherhood. The next year they decided to get serious by fundraising for men’s health. The Movember Foundation is now one of the fastest-growing health NGO’s.
This year they’re highlighting gender disparities in health and longevity. Consider these statistics from their website:
*Around the world, on average, men die almost six years earlier than women.
*Globally, a man dies every minute from suicide.
*Recently, the World Health Organization bulletin on men’s health states, “Health outcomes among men and boys continue to be substantially worse than among girls and women, yet this gender-based inequality in health has received little national, regional or global acknowledgement or attention from health policy-makers or health-care providers.”
*On the whole, women are outliving men by an average of almost six years.
Nurses have always been huge educators about health and well-being. Getting involved in efforts to reduce these gender disparities would boost everyone’s health.
Jebra Turner is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She works in communications Anthro Corporation and blogs about workplace health at www.anthro.com..
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