Dr. Terry Rascoe Offers Tips For Spouses, Adult Children On How To Get Dad To The Doctor
In a survey conducted for the American Academy of Family Physicians, 30 percent of men said they wait as long as possible to see if they will get better before seeking medical treatment. And 36 percent said they only go to the doctor if they are extremely sick.
“Men often have some apprehensions just from what the women have had to go through to get their birth control and have babies,” said Terry Rascoe, MD, Vice Chairman of the Family Medicine department at Scott & White. “They aren’t as used to having their personal space invaded.”
So, if men aren’t comfortable going to the doctor, especially for preventative health care, how do we get them to go when there is a problem?
Dr. Rascoe suggests facilitating, not dictating.
“If you say, honey, it’s a been a couple of years since you’ve been in to see the doctor, do you mind if I call and set something up on one of your days off?” he said. “A lot of guys are like, yeah, whatever. But if they have to do it, then it’s going to take forever.”
Removing barriers is also a good way to ensure that your spouse or elderly parent makes it in to see the doctor.
“You don’t necessarily need to say, I’m going to drive you up there and I’m going to make sure you go,” Dr. Rascoe said. “If you start dictating behavior, you may get pushed back. If you just remove [obstacles] then you’ll probably increase the likelihood that they will go.”
And then give some gentle reminders.
“You could say, oh, don’t forget that tomorrow’s you’re lab work, so you’re not supposed to eat. I’ll leave a note for you and set out a glass of water.”
Another way to make the man in your life more comfortable with the idea of going to the doctor is by getting him to go in when it’s obvious he would benefit, even if it’s a minor thing.
“You can get them in and get them established,” Dr. Rascoe said. “And they go, OK, they didn’t beat up on me too bad. I know the system now and I’ll be OK the next time.”
Not only is it beneficial for men to see their doctor during minor illnesses, it is also helpful when more serious issues arise.
“Once you get a little older and you start getting into cancer screenings, then it becomes even more of a life or death type of thing,” Dr. Rascoe said.
Colon cancer is something that men and women should be screened for beginning at age 50 or ten years before their relative was diagnosed.
“[Colon cancer] is very slow growing and starts with a polyp,” Dr. Rascoe said. “And if you catch it early, it may be nothing more than during the colonoscopy they take the polyp off and that was it. You wake up and you’re cured.”
However, if the patient ignores symptoms or doesn’t get screened, it may be a worst case scenario—advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
“Colon cancer screenings are no doubt helpful and save lives,” the doctor said. “Hopefully we will keep moving toward something less invasive so people will be more inclined to get it done.”
Prostate cancer is also a slow-growing cancer, and if caught early by screenings, can be easier to treat.
“Men need to have a conversation about prostate cancer screenings with their doctors,” Dr. Rascoe said. “In my practice, many of the men will say, let’s check it. And once we get the results back, then we kind of individualize [their care]. We say, ok, it’s a little abnormal so we want to keep watching that or aggressively pursue getting a biopsy.”
Finding something abnormal on a screening can be scary, which is probably why seven percent of men say they are afraid of finding out something is wrong with them. But Dr. Rascoe said it is easier to prevent illness then it is to cure it.