Focus on men’s health
The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month provides the opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.
Urologist and laparoscopic surgeon Dr. Greggory Pinto says Men’s Health Awareness Month, which is recognized in June, not only attempts to save lives, but also tries to improve the quality of the lives of men.
“Bahamian men are, unfortunately, notoriously poor at addressing their own health needs,” says Pinto. “I find that Bahamian men of all ages are very reluctant to seek management for any health issues – however, with knowledge, comes greater understanding and an improved willingness to seek help.”
The doctor says Bahamian men need to take a greater responsibility in maintaining a healthy, long life. He said a little knowledge may save their life, or the life of someone they love.
“Men’s Health Awareness Month focuses on many vital health topics including the management of erectile dysfunction but also includes all major topics related to the good health of men – urinary issues, male infertility, kidney stones, chronic pelvic pain, circumcision, vasectomies, blood in the urine, cancers of the prostate, kidneys, bladder and penis, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes mellitus,” says the urologist.
He says men and boys should all have annual physicals.
“Non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease all have a role in causing irreversible damage to [men’s] erections as well – so, that in itself can be a motivation for many men, that they should be getting annual physicals. Even when someone’s a child, they should be taken by their parents to a pediatrician to make sure they obviously get their vaccinations, and make sure they go for their annual physicals. That should be something ingrained in them from childhood,” he said.
“I find that Bahamian men of all ages are very reluctant to seek management for any health issues,” said the consultant at Princess Margaret Hospital and Doctors Hospital, who is also available at the Family Medicine Centre on Blake Road, and at Oaktree Medical Centre, 5th Terrace and Mount Royal Avenue.
While COVID-19 has been grabbing headlines the past six months, Pinto says emphasis should still be placed on non-communicable diseases – diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis).
“We have a very high incidence of all of these non-communicable diseases, and, unfortunately, even when they are diagnosed, they’re usually diagnosed very late when many of the individuals have had irreversible damage to many of the organs – whether they’re in kidney failure, have had heart failure, have had issues with their eyes, their nerves, so, we need to be very diligent in surveilling for many of these illnesses because we have such a high incidence, particularly when we have men that have both hypertension and diabetes and high cholesterol. If we can pick up many of these non-communicable diseases, we can advocate dietary changes, an exercise regime of two to three times per week, behavioral modifications, less alcohol intake, and stop smoking. And if you do have essential hypertension, you need to be diligent in taking your medication religiously. We can prevent you from getting irreversible damage to your kidneys, or to your eyes, or to your heart, or prevent you from getting a stroke 20 years down the road.”
Pinto said he’s seen too many incidences of men who have sought medical care later in life and might have had diabetes hypertension for decades – non-communicable diseases that he said did untold harm to their body – renal failure, congestive heart failure, or they have issues with poor eye sight.
“So, if you can prevent the irreversible damage of these non-communicable diseases, we can increase the longevity of someone’s life, and not just the longevity, but the quality as well,” said Pinto.
He said men should be aware of the fact that many of the non-communicable diseases have no symptoms, and if they’re waiting for symptoms before seeking advice, they’re going to wait until it’s too late.
“Hypertension is called the silent killer for a reason, because usually you don’t see any symptoms until it’s too late. In many cases, there are no symptoms for prostate cancer, until it’s spread. It’s symptomless for many of these diseases early on, but as they progress and become irreversible, and the disease has done damage to the body, then you’re going to start to get symptoms – then they’ll seek medical consult, and by then, it’s too late,” he said.
“But Bahamian men refuse to go to a doctor. They refuse to address any medical issues they may have. The women are the opposite – it’s usually the women in their [lives] – the wives, the girlfriends, the daughters, the granddaughters – who will drag them in to get medical help,” he said.
The doctor said men should look at their loved ones during this awareness month and use that as motivation to go and get an annual physical, routine blood works, the full battery of tests, to ensure their heart health and to make sure their kidneys are functioning. He said if their erections are failing, men should use that as motivation, because the cause of their erectile dysfunction can be investigated. And that in many cases, that would be how doctors diagnose hypertension, or diabetes or high cholesterol – or he said it could be signs of early heart disease.
“In many cases, erectile dysfunction is an early warning sign of many of these diseases,” he said.
The urologist said The Bahamas has the 14th highest incidence per capita worldwide for prostate cancer. And that Black men have a variant of prostate cancer that’s more aggressive and affects them six to seven years earlier than their racial counterparts – Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic men. Even when diagnosed at the same stage, Pinto said the outcome of Black men is usually not as good.
The urologist said over 100 men die every year in this country of prostate cancer and that at least another 200-plus every year are diagnosed with prostate cancer at an advanced, incurable stage. He described it as a “tragedy” owing to the simple blood test that is one of the options available to men. He said there are different modalities that are available that can give them 100 percent cure.
The good news about prostate cancer, he said, is that it’s one of the easiest cancers to cure when caught early, and that men don’t even necessarily need surgery to cure prostate cancer.