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Men and mortality rates: How one simple appointment could help save your life

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In Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, one of the main characters describes the seven ages of man. There’s an abrupt transition between middle age—when man is at the top of his game and respected—to old age, at which point man has lost his influence and has deteriorated, both mentally and physically.

But unlike during Shakespeare’s time, we now have the ability to create a robust, positive transition between these stages of life by taking a proactive approach to our own health.

And there’s no better time for men to remember this than September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Why more men need to treat their bodies like cars

Globally, prostate cancer is now the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, and the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer overall. It ranks as the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men worldwide.

But here’s the good news: If caught early, prostate cancer has one of the best remission rates of any type of cancer, with a five-year relative survival rate of nearly 100%.

Like many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, prostate cancer can be silent for years before any recognizable symptoms are detected. And by the time symptoms do appear, the cancer is already at an advanced stage, so men have the best chance of survival if it is detected before the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

But too many men take good health for granted. Even when we have noticeable symptoms, we often prefer to push ourselves through them instead of asking for help or admitting there’s a problem. We tend to think we’re invincible.

That’s an attitude that needs to change.

Wherever they live in the world, men have a shorter life expectancy than women, and men are more likely to get cancer than women. Medical experts agree that the biggest barrier to early detection of diseases like prostate cancer is low public awareness, which is why initiatives like Prostate Cancer Awareness Month can be beneficial.

Just last month, the American Academy of Family Physicians announced the results of an online men’s health survey that found almost half of men surveyed had never been screened for either colon cancer or prostate cancer—and only 52% had a physical exam in the past year.

Yet almost half of men in the survey said they spend at least one hour a week maintaining their car, motorcycle or other motorized equipment. After all, one of the most watched TV shows in the world is about cars.

No one has to tell us to change a gasket to protect a car’s engine or replace a spring to save the suspension. So why not be as proactive and thorough with our bodies? Why not recruit doctors as pit crew captains for our health?

The simple appointment all men need to make

It takes minimal effort to find out which screenings are recommended at every age, and talk to family members to determine a family history of illnesses. The next step is to make an appointment for an annual physical.

For men who develop prostate cancer, those with a family history of the disease will develop it six to seven years earlier than those without a family history, so those men should ask their doctor about the timing for examinations and screenings because they are high risk.

Information empowers us to have enlightened discussions with our doctors that can intercept underlying illness. Living each age of our lives to its fullest, both mentally and physically, can be an achievable aspiration for all men if we’re willing to find out how.

Kris Sterkens is Company Group Chairman of Janssen Asia Pacific. Under his leadership, operating companies across the region have launched a range of programs to improve the lives of patients by applying innovative technology solutions to address unmet medical needs, creating funding schemes that improve affordability, and forming public-private partnerships to support people living with chronic diseases and the healthcare professionals who care for them.

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