GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – Let’s be honest, going to the doctor’s office for a physical exam isn’t exactly the idea of a good time for most of us.
“I had one guy once tell me he didn't want to do this because you might find something. I said yeah, well, that's kind of the point,” laughs Dr. James Welters of Park Nicollet.
Dr. Welters says young men should be getting a physical every few years. Once you hit 40 you should be getting one every one to two years. After 65, make it an annual thing.
So, what exactly is a doctor looking for?
“Basically we're looking for any evidence to suggest serious disease,” Dr. Welters says. “In younger men we're thinking about sexually transmitted diseases, testicular cancer. For older men we're thinking about prostate cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, lung disease.”
Dr. Welters says the most important part of the physical is getting to talk with patients about things like their family medical history and making sure they’re up to speed on vaccinations.
Whether you notice it or not, he's actually looking for things you might never think of.
“Ear wax. People have packed in ear wax and may not be aware,” Dr. Welters says. He adds that looking in the back of your eye may show signs of high blood pressure.
While walking into an exam room for a physical can be intimidating, Dr. Welters says it's his job to create a safe environment.
“It's a safe environment, you can tell me anything, it's confidential,” he says. “My usual line is, particularly with the prostate or genital exam, ‘I don't enjoy this much more than you do.’ So, we understand, but it is part of it.”
No matter how uncomfortable it may be, investing in your health is certainly worth it.
“You don't want to meet a doctor for the first time in the emergency room,” says Dr. Welters.
Dr. Welters says, on average, he finds some sort of serious problem in about 1 in 10 physicals. They include things like diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.