MALAYSIANS in general would claim to have sufficient knowledge about matters pertaining to their health and well-being. However, many healthcare practitioners would beg to differ, and would argue that the level of health consciousness and understanding among men specifically is critically inadequate. These healthcare practitioners would pinpoint the reluctance of men to discuss issues relevant to their health or see their physicians as the crux of the challenge – and that they fail to realise that they risk their well-being and life with their reticence.
Considering that the Asian population is ageing rapidly, the need to impart the importance for men to be aware of the key health issues pertinent to them, as well as to encourage higher levels of health consciousness is becoming even more urgent.
Observing that many men are under the misconception that it is not manly to discuss health issues, be it with friends or even with their doctors, consultant urologist Prof Dr Chua Chong Beng, said, “This tendency to avoid health issues is further compounded in the context of the Asian culture, where many men feel too embarrassed to broach subjects considered too private.”
Dr Chua identified prostate and sexual health problems as amongst the more common health issues specific to men today. “Both can greatly impact a man’s quality of life and longevity, and yet they are also among the least talked about.”
The prostate is a walnut-sized cluster of glands at the bottom of the bladder. It encircles the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis, and the prostatic secretion makes up part of the semen.
“The three most common problems specific to the prostate are enlargement, cancer and infection. Enlargement of the prostate is actually a natural part of ageing in men. However, the enlargement of the gland can increase the pressure on the urethra and can cause urinary problems, which impacts on a man’s quality of life. Common symptoms include pain during urination, an urge to urinate a lot, decreased force of the urine stream, an incomplete emptying of the bladder, and/or problems getting the urine started and completely stopped. There are drugs that can help address these symptoms and surgery is usually not necessary,” Dr Chua explained.
He highlighted that prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men. “Although small and slow-growing, it can silently progress. This is because there are no specific symptoms, except in some cases when the symptoms are similar to those of prostate enlargement. As such, men especially those over the age of 55, need to be more vigilant about going to see their doctors and have a prostate assessment, especially if they are concerned about cancer or if there is a close family member already diagnosed with prostate cancer. If detected early, prostate cancer is highly curable. Please do not let embarrassment deter you from seeking advice,” he urged.
Prostate infections, if and when they occur, can often be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms which men can look out for include fever and chills, pain and burning when urinating and during ejaculation, a strong and frequent urge to urinate, only being able to pass small amounts of urine, lower back or abdominal pain and/or blood in the urine,” Dr Chua concluded.
Discussed even less openly, is the issue of sexual health problems. “Male sexual problems strike at the very heart of a man’s sense of personal worth, and are often shrouded in a cloud of silence. However, they really are worth talking about,” stated Dr Peter Ng, consultant urologist and Secretary for the Malaysian Society of Andrology and the Study of the Aging Male (MSASAM).
“Male sexual problems are much more common than many realise, but the good news is that they are eminently treatable. Premature ejaculation, for example, is often related to performance anxiety and is something many men have experienced. What men need to bear in mind is that there is no need to suffer in silence as there are good strategies to address this condition, if only they were to consult their doctors about it.”
Considered even more of a taboo subject is erectile dysfunction (ED), where a man is unable to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for complete sexual intercourse. Estimated to affect 2.2 million men in Malaysia, ED is a medical condition that is commonly related to conditions that may narrow the blood vessels to the penis and nerve related disorders.
Up to 80% of ED cases are caused by physiological conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes, with psychological factors accounting for the remaining 20%. Although a man’s chances of being affected by ED increases with age, lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, depression, stress and anxiety can also contribute to ED.
Dr Ng explained, “ED can bring about significant psychological implications such as guilt, depression, frustration and low self-esteem in men. ED has also been found to be a marker for the progression of more serious life-threatening conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. So speaking to your physician about ED could well save your life.”
Commenting on the available treatment options for ED, Dr Ng further elaborated that more couples dealing with ED should consider seeking treatment. “Not only has the advent of oral treatments made the management of ED easier and more effective, but the exciting new treatment options now offer patients more flexibility, normalcy and spontaneity. In short, ED patients now have an opportunity to recapture the romance and spontaneous intimacy previously lost.”
In conjunction with Father’s Day, MSASAM, LPPKN and the Nutrition Society of Malaysia are jointly organising a men’s health forum at the MINES Beach Resort & Spa this June 27. “We strongly feel that safeguarding the health of a loved one is the best gift one can bestow, and what better way to commemorate this Father’s Day than to give dads an opportunity to talk with doctors about health issues they feel unable to discuss in any other situation. We urge all men and their wives to join us for an open, honest discussion on key issues such as Men’s health & aging, Eating your way to good health, Prostate Problems: What every man should know, Male sexual problems and The heart: What every man should know,” Dr Ng continued.
“We are also honoured to be collaborating with IJN, SJMC, Pantai Hospitals, Megah Medical Centre and Eli Lilly Malaysia on this men’s health forum. It is with their commitment and support that we are able to offer attendees complimentary health screening for blood pressure, as well as BMI, body fat and bone density measurement. There will also be a golf clinic, door gifts, fun competitions and lucky draws offering Executive Screening Programmes worth RM500 each,” Dr Ng concluded.
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