Many Australian men delay or even skip crucial health screenings such as prostate exams, colonoscopies or endoscopies for one simple reason: fear. Overcoming your dread of these tests can literally save your life so we have some tips to minimise your discomfort when you get all squeamish or embarrassed.
The main way to check for any prostate problems or early warning signs for prostate cancer is through a digital rectal examination (DRE) at your doctor’s office. The idea of being probed in a doctor’s office makes many men uncomfortable, particularly if it is the first time they have submitted to the procedure. The most important thing to do before the prostate check is try and stay as relaxed as possible. If you are anxious about the test take some deep breaths and try and shift your focus to more pleasant thoughts. Tell your doctor if you are particularly nervous and they can tell you what they are doing at each step of the procedure, which may help calm your nerves.
The Cancer Council has more information about prostate cancer detection.
Another health check that many men fear also involves probing the bum – colonoscopies. This procedure allows your doctor to look for polyps or other precancerous growths in your colon and remove them. While the thought of having a long flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end inserted into your rectum is not pleasant, it is important to note that you will be sedated throughout the procedure.
Another thing that often puts people off having colonoscopies is the colon-clearing preparation you have to go through before the test. After being on a 24-hour clear liquid diet, you must drink two-three litres of a salty prep liquid at least seven hours before the exam. The drink will make you empty your bowels repeatedly, until there is nothing but clear liquid coming out. You can try a couple of things to make the colonoscopy experience less uncomfortable.
Firstly, you can get a head start on emptying your bowels by eating smaller, lighter meals in the lead-up to your test. The less you have in your gut, the easier the cleansing process will be. Secondly, try and make your appointment for the afternoon, rather than the morning. That way you can drink the prep mixture on the day of the examination rather than suffering from an interrupted sleep due to taking some of the mixture at night and constantly running to the toilet.
All the horror of having a long tube and camera inserted into your body, just at the other end of proceedings. An endoscopy sees the scope inserted down your oesophagus to investigate your stomach and the start of the small intestine. It can examine symptoms such as chronic reflux, swallowing difficulty and upper abdominal pain. Just as with a colonoscopy, patients are sedated during the procedure, but many people have a fear that they will gag or vomit when the scope is inserted, such a reaction is very unusual, but having a sore throat after the procedure is quite common. If your throat is sore afterwards try eating soft foods such as soup, yoghurt and jelly for the rest of the day.