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Stamford: Men: Step up to plate for family; schedule PSA test, physical

Recently, I wrote about how we men are, in general, in denial when it comes to health issues. This evoked a huge response from women, but, predictably, not much from men.

A female writer sent me an e-mail that was typical of the responses I received from women. It said: “I read your article, ‘Men in denial . . .’ today with great interest, and just wanted to say, ‘AMEN!’ I can’t wait to get home and show my husband this article. . . . Thank you so much for writing about something that so desperately needs to be addressed.”

Getting the word out

I also received a great note from a man in California. He is active in promoting support groups for men, and he emphasizes the need for men to take more responsibility for their health. One of his key messages is the importance of early detection.

He told me there are about 24.6 million fathers in America between the ages of 40 and 75 – prime ages for concern about prostate cancer. As he thought about this, he decided to send out a tongue-in-cheek message for Father’s Day. The theme was “Get your Dad a physical for Father’s Day,” and make sure it comes with a prostate-specific antigen test digital rectal exam. Here’s what he advised everyone who has a father in this age group to do:

Ask your Dad whether he has had a PSA test and a DRE in the past five years.

If he answers, “Yes,” you will ask, “What were the results?” because he may be lying.

If he answers, “No,” you will say, “Then let’s get you tested.”

When he says, “Mind your own business,” you will reply, “I am. You’re my father. Your health is my business.”

When he says, “I’m not having that test done to me,” you will say, “So, I’m meant to look after you for 10 years while you’re dying of prostate cancer, just because you wouldn’t have a simple test?”

When he says, “I’m too busy,” you will say, “Don’t worry, I’ll make the appointment for you and take you myself.”

When he says, “Don’t you dare!” you will say, “And come to think of it, you might as well get a proper physical at the same time. When did you last have one of those?”

When he then grumps at you and doesn’t answer, you will say, “Good. Then it’s agreed,” and go right ahead and set up the appointment with a doctor; his, yours, who cares?

The hated exam

We men, myself included, really hate the digital rectal exam. It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable, whatever, so we do all we can to avoid it. Now, let’s compare and contrast with women. Guys, do you think women savor pelvic exams? A digital rectal exam takes seconds to perform, while a pelvic exam takes much longer. I’m certain, if asked, every woman would say, “Sure, I’d love to not have to take an annual pelvic exam.” But they do, because it’s the smart thing to do.

The bottom line

Guys, you might think it’s your life and only you should decide what’s best for you. But you no doubt have a number of folks who love and depend on you. So, if you won’t move forward to benefit yourself, step up to the plate for them.

Bryant Stamford is professor and chairman of the department of exercise science at Hanover (Ind.) College. Address questions or suggestions to “The Body Shop,” The Courier-Journal, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431

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