OKLAHOMA CITY — While a urologist is not by definition a primary care physician, urology specialists often play significant roles in comprehensive healthcare for men. Ash Bowen, M.D., OU Medicine urology expert in Edmond, cited a 2016 men’s health survey, which indicated improvement in many areas of men’s health. 

“More men believe they are in better health now, compared to a similar survey in 2007. However, most men aren’t really comfortable discussing their health concerns with their doctors and according to the survey, only about 40% say they follow the advice of their physicians,” Bowen said. 

Studies also conclude that most American males don’t seek care promptly when they do have concerns. Because preventive care is the key to avoiding serious illness, keeping routine appointments with a primary care physician is important.

“A provider-patient relationship sets up a partnership that enhances overall health and awareness for both individuals,” Bowen said. “Lifestyle, family history, personal risk factors — this knowledge helps us manage for improved health and anticipate problems that may arise. And by being proactive, we may avoid those potential problems altogether.”   

Bowen said men should consider seeing a urology specialist for conditions including erectile dysfunction; enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH); kidney stones; bladder infections; blood in the urine; abnormal testicular lumps; and for prostate cancer screening. 

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and Bowen believes the emphasis is positive and beneficial. Because prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40, a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening isn’t recommended, unless there are factors that increase risk, such as African-American ethnicity or family history of prostate cancer. From age 55 to 69, prostate cancer screening should be discussed by men and their doctors. 

Some risk factors can’t be managed by lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Age is one of those factors. Bowen said the risk of prostate cancer rises dramatically after age 50, and about 60 percent of cases are found in men older than 65. It’s not clear why racial factors increase risk, but prostate cancer occurs in African-American men and men of African heritage more frequently than in other populations.

“Men in every age range see urologists for help with conditions that affect sexual health, infertility or contraception, genitourinary pain, urinary tract infections, or unusual discharges. A complete genitourinary exam annually is a good idea,” Bowen said. “You and your provider will consider the benefits of the PSA screening and make a decision. Typically, the screening is done every year, sometimes every two years for low-risk patients.”  

Bowen encourages men to find a trusted health care provider who can be part of a comprehensive approach for continuity of care. 

“Nearly every man will encounter some kind of urologic complication at some point, whether it’s a kidney stone, an enlarged prostate, testicular abnormalities or prostate cancer. Routine screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes are measures that help you manage your health and be in top condition, whether or not a serious health matter develops at some time in the future.”

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