10 Symptoms Men Shouldn't Ignore
Jun 12, 2017 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Never mind the annual men’s health checkup—many men don’t make a doctor’s appointment until they’re wincing in pain.
In fact, men are 25% less likely than women to have seen a healthcare provider in the past year, according to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
We asked Cedars-Sinai doctors which symptoms men most commonly ignore—and shouldn’t. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these, a trip to your primary care physician could be in order.
10 Symptoms Men Often Ignore
Odd-looking moles and other skin irregularities
Did that mole change color, shape, or size? Maybe there’s an irregular border. "I love when patients come in and note that a particular growth has changed or is new," says Cedars-Sinai dermatologist Dr. Joyce N. Fox. "Their monitoring of their own and their partner’s skin is part of their proactive care that gives me hope." Timely intervention is critical. Men should take action when they see those telltale cancer signs, along with rough patches of skin or sores that won’t heal.
Is your own snoring waking you—or your partner—up at night? That could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep apnea can wake the snorer and interrupt breathing, leading to daytime fatigue and greater risk of high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke. If sleeping on your side or stomach doesn’t help, then it’s time for an appointment with a sleep specialist who can make the appropriate diagnosis. Recommended treatments include a CPAP breathing device for continuous airway pressure, a dental appliance to change jaw and tongue position at night, and similar devices.
Change in bowel habits
"Problems with bowel movements are usually a sign of dietary indiscretion," says Dr. Robert Uyeda, a general surgeon at Cedars-Sinai. "But it can be something as serious as colorectal cancer." If you’re experiencing chronic constipation or have symptoms like bloody or narrow stools, mysterious weight loss, cramping, and bloating, there could be an obstruction in the lower bowel. The goal is to prevent colorectal cancer from developing, but getting people to schedule colonoscopies can be challenging. Cedars-Sinai's Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon, asks people to set aside their concerns about bowel-related cancer screening by offering a health affirmation: "I tell them to say to themselves, 'I will not die of fear. I will not die of embarrassment.'" Meanwhile, if there are already symptoms, it’s vital that patients see a specialist in time to benefit from treatment.
"Chest pain could mean heart disease, lung disease, and gastrointestinal disorders," says Dr. Uyeda. "It can also point to shingles or an injury of some kind." A Cedars-Sinai study by Dr. Sumeet S. Chugh found that more than half of patients who have cardiac arrest—an "electrical" problem that stops the heart—experience warning signs days or weeks before the condition strikes. In the days, and sometimes weeks, before cardiac arrest, many patients have intermittent chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, palpitations, or ongoing flu-like symptoms like nausea, as well as abdominal and back pain. However, 80% ignore these symptoms.
Shortness of breath
A heavy workout can cause anyone to have labored breathing for a time. But persistent shortness of breath can also be evidence of a heart attack or congestive heart failure. Breathing difficulties are sometimes caused by smoking or secondhand smoke, airborne chemicals, and pollution—all of which can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With shortness of breath, make sure to be screened for lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema too.
Trouble with vision
Forgetting where you parked, missing a bill payment, or misplacing your phone may not be an emergency. However, if you’re beginning to forget things more often—or more dramatically—there could be an underlying medical issue. Memory loss is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, and some infections. It might also be depression, addiction, or a vitamin deficiency. Your physician can help.
Not surprisingly, men have worse health statistics than women. They die, on average, 5 years earlier than women. They’re 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer, and lung diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening and preventative care can help change those men’s health stats—make that appointment today!