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CFA medical officer’s health tips for men
Dr Michael Sargeant has been the CFA Medical Officer for some 20 years.
He’s had a broad overview of risk assessment studies and the emergency medical response education program but has also drilled down into the details of individual hazmat incidents, and the health monitoring of firefighters through the 2009 fires and the Hazelwood mine fire; wherever CFA needs a high-level medical presence.
For Men’s Health Week, 12 to 18 June, Michael has some health tips for our CFA men of all ages.
“Men traditionally haven’t been all that good at going to the doctor,” he said. “Unless there are significant symptoms, there’s often an attitude of ‘I’ll be alright’ and thinking they’re bulletproof. In fact, men of all ages need to see their doctor for regular health checks.
“Younger men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours but they also need to check themselves.”
Michael cites the recent example of AFL footballer Jesse Hogan being diagnosed with testicular cancer he fortunately appears to have detected in its early stages.
“Men should check their crown jewels in the shower like he did,” said Michael.
The best way to do that is to hold your penis out of the way and check one testicle at a time. Hold the testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers. Look and feel for any hard lumps or smooth rounded bumps or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testicles.
“Melanomas are another big issue,” continued Michael. “While 70 per cent are detected as a new spot, the other 30 per cent will be changes in the shape or size of a current spot.
“A good tip is to check your skin on the first day of each season and get a loved one to check your back for any changes.”
Screening tests help doctors detect many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers in early stages. A man with a family history of a particular disease should be regularly tested regardless of his age.
“From your 40s you should be having a regular health check covering blood pressure and a fasting blood sugar test can detect the early stages of Type 2 diabetes,” continued Michael.
In addition, a cholesterol or lipid profile test looks at the various levels of cholesterol and other fats in your blood. Understanding their levels in the blood can help predict people at risk of heart disease and stroke with heart disease still the biggest killer in Australia.
All these tests are carried out as part of CFA’s Healthwatch program with many members lining up at the champs to take advantage of these comprehensive free tests.
As men move into their 50s, they should be tested for bowel and prostate cancer.
The risk for the former in Australian men is one in 17 with the government providing a test kit through the post to everyone who turns 50.
“The silly thing is that the community isn’t participating in this effective screening test,” said Michael.
There are disagreements among experts on prostate cancer screening, so discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. If you’re over 50, an annual digital prostate examination may be recommended..
The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test is not recommended as a screening test for the general population. A positive PSA blood test must be confirmed with the digital test and other tests including a biopsy of the prostate.
If you have a family history of any type of cancer, including prostate cancer, you may need to have a PSA and digital test regularly after you turn 40.
“Pre-test counselling is also very important for the PSA,” adds Michael, “so men should talk to their doctor about what’s appropriate for them based on their age and family history.”
Whatever your age, Michael encourages all CFA men to take time to care for themselves so they can, in turn, serve their community as they love to do