Men have a reputation for not seeing their doctors enough. It‘s a fact. In spite of the truth that men die at an earlier age than women and are more likely to engage in activities such as drinking to excess and smoking that put their lives at risk, they are half as likely as a woman to have been to a doctor in the last two years and twice as likely to have never seen a doctor at all.
Why is that? A recent survey asked men why they had not seen a doctor. The top 3 reasons: 1) too busy; 2) afraid of what the doctor would find; 3) afraid of the examination itself.
Too busy? I understand, but let‘s look at what this would mean. Practically, the current recommendations are to start being seen around the age of 18. Every two years we should be checking your blood pressure. So, you don’t need to be seen every year. We add on checks for diabetes, high cholesterol, colon cancer and prostate cancer as the years move on but really, how huge a time commitment is this really?
About points 2 and 3. If there is nothing there, no doctor is going to create an illness just for the fun of it. We are all far too busy for that. On the other hand, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol are all silent killers until the damage is done. Better to find them out now when you can do things about it and not suffer the consequences. Even if you think you eat right and exercise, there are genetics at work that you can‘t control. That‘s why being checked out is always in your best interest.
With respect to cancer, almost every cancer you can think of is easier to treat and cure if caught early — another good reason to be seen on a regular basis and to be checked out by a doctor.
In terms of being embarrassed, there is nothing about you that we haven‘t seen before. All of us want you to feel at ease about being examined. So, don‘t let embarrassment stop you from being seen. If you don‘t want certain parts of the body to be examined, you can tell us that and often we can find other ways to get the info that we need.
Men‘s Health Day took place recently but you shouldn’t need an excuse. Any day is the right day to take stock of your health and make that call to book your appointment.
Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.