Men don't take preventative health care seriously. It nearly cost one CEO his life

Corrections & clarifications: A previous version of this story had the incorrect age for when men are supposed to have their first colonoscopy. The correct age is 45.

For the last several years I’ve participated in No Shave November, which is a movement that encourages us all to have conversations about cancer prevention. As you may know, hair loss is a common side effect of cancer treatment.

So, I’m more than happy to participate. Go ahead, ask me about my beard.

I’ll tell you my wife and her persistence are the reason I’m alive today.

Men’s Health Awareness Month and No Shave November work in tandem to address critical health concerns and promote discussions about men’s well-being.

No Shave November encourages men to forgo their razors and women often get in on the action, too. It’s a fun and quirky challenge but the purpose is quite serious. It’s meant to spark conversations about men’s health, particularly focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

It’s a month that is personally significant to me.

At Meridian, we believe the best health care is preventative health care. That’s why we work hard to ensure that our patients and our communities, across Indiana, have access to vaccines and health checks. We host a dozen public health fairs throughout the year offering free screenings using eye charts to blood pressure cuffs.

Last month, we were at more than a dozen of our clinics across the state offering free flu shots. Our whole person health philosophy means a patient has access not only to a medical provider but to a behavioral clinician. We know your physical health is tied to your mental well-being. Good mental health is good health.

I know all too well how important screenings are. A routine colonoscopy, five years ago, revealed early cancer and led to me having a third of my colon removed. I was 51. Men are supposed to have their first colonoscopy at age 45.

My wife and administrative assistant conspired to find free time on my calendar because I had put off doing the screening for well over a year. By the way, I’m not the only stubborn male. One study, by the Cleveland Clinic, reports nearly 60% of men don’t see a doctor regularly.

The research found only three in five men get annual physicals and nearly half of the 500 men surveyed said their health is simply something they don’t talk about. Instead, men are much more likely to talk about current events (36%), sports (32%) or their job (32%) rather than their health (only 7%).

Turns out men are notoriously terrible patients and as someone whose life was then – and is today – tied so inextricably to health care, the irony is not lost on me.

Five years ago, my wife and her persistence saved my life.

Since then, I’ve participated in No Shave November. It gives me an opportunity when I’m asked about “why the beard?” Today, I am far more aware of my health and take prevention seriously because of this experience.

These are important conversations to have. Have them with your family and friends. Encourage regular check-ups. You just may save a life.

Seth Warren is president and chief executive officer of Meridian Health Services. Previously, he was president and CEO at Riverview Health in Noblesville. He joined MHS in August.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: No Shave November helps address critical men's health concerns