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Prevention, Not Retrospection

June 25th, 2019

For Family Medicine physician, John C. Lee, D.O., it’s a tale as old as time, “I hear over and over, ‘If I only knew when I was younger, there are so many things I would have done differently so that I am not in this situation’. That is where my job comes in.”  Dr. Lee’s job, as he sees it, is often retrospective and far too little preventative, especially when treating men.  

According to the National Health Survey in 2014, men are twice as likely to wait over two years between seeing their doctor when compared to women. In addition, men are significantly more likely to wait until suffering from a serious injury or illness before consulting their physician. 

As a result, Dr. Lee says far too many patients are forced to treat conditions that could have been altogether avoided by a simple yearly physical, “I am the voice in the back of your head that’s telling you that you need to go in for that physical. When we catch these things early, and we catch them now earlier than we ever did before, we can act on them earlier and prevent a lot of adverse outcomes.” During these yearly physicals, physicians are able to screen for common conditions that often are associated with men’s health. Prostate exams, colonoscopies and screenings of the chest for smokers are all critical tests to ensure the long-term health of male patients.

Regarding prostate health, Dr. Lee still stresses the importance of being checked, but also reminds his male patients that the frequency of prostate exams has been altered to fit the patient’s specific needs. Previously, the exam was preformed yearly, but after further refining the test to include other factors, the test is now extremely patient specific: “It’s really a great time to be seeing your doctor, compared to even a couple decades ago, because so much has been refined.” These vast improvements in preventative care are not limited to prostate exams; in addition, the colonoscopy screening is noted as the gold standard of medicine, “I can’t stress the importance of getting a colonoscopy at fifty and beyond. Not only is it a gold standard screen for colon cancer, if a precancerous bump is found, it’s snipped out and you are done.” This easy screening has made a disease that was once a prevalent killer of men a non-issue for those who are screened early and frequently. 

Additionally, lung cancer screenings have played a critical role in removing the stigma surrounding cancer. This concept of early detection is at the heart of preventative care and absolutely crucial to longevity, “When we find things early, they are very actionable. There is a reason people aren’t as scared of cancer as they used to be and that’s because we manage it so well, but that relies entirely on early detection.” 

In the end, Dr. Lee reminds his patients he wants to be an advocate for your sixty-year-old self, years down the road: “In a perfect scenario, you wake up fifty or sixty years old, and you are telling me that all those visits in your twenties and thirties were boring and that you feel like you wasted your time and all of your copays. That is exactly the point, because I found everything early and we acted on it early enough so that there is never a bad outcome for you … we prevented it all which is the whole point.”

June is Men’s Health Month, and we encourage you to schedule a visit with your physician at MMC to take steps towards guarding your health for yourself and your loved ones. Your sixty-year-old self will thank you. 

To schedule an appointment with an Internal and Family Medicine physician, call 615-867-8010 or visit Your health is our mission.

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