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Teen boy visiting his healthcare provider.

Health Needs of Teen Males: Beyond the Annual Exam

By Dr. Kyzwana Caves, Adolescent Medicine

Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and development, both physically and mentally, and a time when young men can feel societal pressures ranging from how they look to how they feel.

It’s not a time to stop seeing a healthcare provider, yet this age group is among the least likely to see one, particularly among minorities.

I am a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine at CHKD, helping teens and young adults with their complex physical, behavioral, and emotional healthcare needs, including reproductive healthcare and diagnosis and treatment of some mental health conditions such as uncomplicated anxiety and depression.

Since male adolescents are less likely to see a doctor for routine and preventive care, I’d like to tell you about the top reasons it’s a good idea for adolescent males to prioritize their health at this age.

Please note: CHKD recognizes gender as a spectrum, so in this blog I am discussing youth assigned male at birth.

Testicular examinations

Testicular exams should be done annually. These exams screen for testicular cancer and common problems such as sexually transmitted infections. These exams also check for conditions like hypospadias and varicoceles, which are genital anomalies that may need treatment.

Teens also need to be educated about how to do testicular self-exams, which take about two to three minutes each month. Although rare, this cancer occurs mostly in young men between 15 and 39 years of age.

Gender questioning or gender dysphoria

Adolescence is a time of self-exploration and finding one’s own identity. Pediatricians and adolescent medicine specialists can check in with male youth regarding gender identity and sexual orientation as part of a confidential visit. This allows a safe space to ask questions, communicate experiences, and seek medical therapies such as hormone affirming therapy and/or safe exploration of social transitioning, such as using affirming pronouns and hair removal.

Sexual health

Each year, adolescents account for the largest group of new HIV infections and more than half of all new sexually transmitted infections. LGBTQ+ youth face higher risks for STIs, which often corresponds to hesitancy or avoidance of routine healthcare due to discrimination and biases experienced within the healthcare system.

It’s important for adolescent males to have age-appropriate discussions with their healthcare provider about puberty, sexual development and behaviors, abstinence, dating violence, and preventing sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy. Visits may focus on education including safety, consent, healthy relationships, prevention counseling, and testing as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depending on the needs of each patient.

Mental health

Mental health needs are common in adolescence and know no race, ethnicity, or gender. As male teens navigate their role in society, an adolescent health specialist provides both medical management and therapeutic resources for dealing with common diagnoses such as anxiety and depression. Adolescent physicians work closely with primary care physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to care for the needs of youth needing mental health support.

Substance use or abuse disorders

Adolescence can be a time of experimentation and testing of limits. Teens also often use substances such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco (through vaping or hookah), to help them cope with their realities or unmet mental health needs. Confidential visits are important to assess risks through screening tools and to provide substance abuse prevention resources.

If your teen may benefit from seeing an adolescent medicine specialist, call (757) 668-7444 to make an appointment.

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About Children's Specialty Group

About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.