August 24, 2011

'Women's' Diseases That Men Get, Also

Yeah, go ahead and laugh! I consider myself lucky not to have any of these problems, but 10 years ago when I found a large lump in my breast, I too was embarrassed. It turned out to be benign, but put a scare in me, and when I hear about a man having breast cancer, I don't laugh. This article in WebMD accurately points out that many health problems thought to be for women only, may happen to men as well.

Granted, we cannot have ovarian or uterine cancer or other problems affecting women's reproductive organs. Men do get osteoporosis, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases, even though these happen in women more frequently. Men often face special challenges when these happen as they may not recognize the symptoms, and because these are regarded by society as “women's problems” men will sometime ignore it or become very frustrated because they don't know how to handle them.

Looking at the statistics, breast cancer – one man will have breast cancer for every 108 women. Not exactly something to ignore is it. Men do not get regular mammograms and it is not recommended. The National Cancer Institute says there is no information on the benefits or risks of breast cancer screening in men.

Men – do take heart, if caught early, your chances are excellent to survive and even though many men do not catch it early, their treatments are the same as for women and the results are as good as for women.

Lupus affects one man for every nine women having lupus. Men tend to have more serious cases of the disease than women. It's often especially severe in young men. However, men typically respond as well to treatments - which are mostly the same for men and women -- and the risk of death from the disease is similar.

Osteoporosis is even worse at one man for every four women. Even doctors don't always have the disease on their radar screens with male patients. Men can develop this as they age and their natural supply of bone-building testosterone decreases. Often the use of steroid drugs like cortisone and prednisone which are used for treating some chronic diseases as well as testosterone reducing drugs used to treat prostate cancer lead to osteoporosis in men. Smoking and alcohol use can also bring on osteoporosis. Men can take many of the bone-building drugs that are FDA-approved for men and women.

As with any chronic health problem, learning how to cope is often the key to successful treatment. Finding a support group is important but is generally harder for men to find than it is for women. Many men find they need to build a new identity or build a new persona to feel more relaxed and learn how to live a less restricted life. And finally develop a plan for situations which may lead to embarrassing discussions. Think about how you can remain in control of these moments and remember your health is your business. Who you tell, and when, is strictly your call.

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