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November is Male Health Awareness Month

Submitted by Mags Matthews, MPT, 11/04/2019

Men’s health is in a state of crisis. Males are dying on average 6 years younger than females and from largely preventable causes. Prostate and Testicular cancers are on the rise, and across the globe men die from suicide at a rate of 1 per minute. Mental health disorders and disease are underdiagnosed and undertreated in men, which can lead to desperate methods of self treatment like drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. November is Male Health Awareness Month, also known as “Movember”, and seeks to stop men from dying too young. The Movember orgainzation uses the month to bring awareness to and give support to those dealing w/ prostate and testicular cancers, mental health and suicide.

Can you imagine being a 24-year-old man at the peak of strength and finding out you have testicular cancer? Testicular cancer most commonly affects men from ages 15-55 and the most common age of diagnosis is 33 years old. The rates of diagnosis have doubled in the last 2 decades, and when caught early, testicular cancer is 95% treatable.

As men age, their risks for developing prostate cancer go up. It’s rarely found in men younger than 40 and risks increase over 50 years of age. 1 in 9 males will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of these cancers? Prostate cancer may show as difficult or frequent urination, blood in urine or semen, painful sensations in bladder or pelvis, and painful ejaculation. Signs of possible testicular cancer include a change in the way a testicle feels, a painless lump, swelling, feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum, breast tenderness or growth. If something feels off, go see your medical provider as soon as possible. Early detection is critical for successful treatment.

The most common side effects of pelvic cancer treatment are urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Rather than waiting until after surgery to treat these issues, the best results occur from just 1-2 physical therapy treatments from a physical therapist (PT) having a specialty in pelvic physical therapy prior to surgery, and 1-3 visits after surgery. PT treatment both before and after prostatectomy are a standard method of improving incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

Symptoms such as urinary incontinence, urinary urgency, hesitation; constipation, sexual dysfunction, and pelvic/groin pain may not necessarily indicate cancer. They may indicate a mechanical problem rooted in muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves, or connective tissue within the pelvis, otherwise known as a musculoskeletal pelvic floor issue. These issues are treatable.

Pelvic Physical therapy can provide support to males w/ prostate health, bowel and bladder function, reproductive health, digestion, and sexual function. A pelvic PT specialist may use ultrasound or computer guided biofeedback exercises w/ very specific directions, they may train the bladder to decrease night time waking. Visceral massage and manual treatments help decrease adhesions and heal scar tissue, normalize organ mobility and motility, enhance muscle activity, and free nerve pathways. A specialized home exercise program is a key element of making sure that progress continues outside of the office. PTs can also act as coaches to encourage your best work to improve overall health.

Key components of cancer prevention are the same as a heart healthy lifestyle, with a diet rich in a diversity of fruits and veggies, and regular exercise. Multiple recent studies show that exercise is helpful both to prevent the risks of developing and improves quality of life during cancer as well as for heart disease. Exercise decreases the risks of colon, breast ( yes, men can get it too), and lung cancers. Another study shows a strong link between exercise and improved Cancer related health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, better quality of life, and less fatigue.

In honor of Male Health Awareness month, Fit for Life Physical Therapy is sponsoring a workshop on Male Pelvic Health Wednesday, November 20th, at 6pm. Pelvic physical therapist and co-owner, Margaret Yen-Chuang Matthews, MPT will share some hints for men to maintain a healthy pelvis through the lifespan as well as current research on how to fight incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual impairment.

Whether patients are seeking help for improving wellness, adding a new exercise program, or seeking rehabilitation for current medical issues, a pelvic physical therapist might be able to help you. Please contact your physician or physical therapist to see if physical therapy is right for you.

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