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 that women don’t,” said Terry Rascoe, MD, Vice Chairman of the Family Medicine department at Scott & White. “Women are usually more accustomed to going to the doctor for sensitive issues like birth control and pregnancy. Men’s health is different. In general, men 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?
Facilitate, don’t dictate.
“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?,’ a lot of guys are like, ‘yeah, whatever.'” he said. “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.”
Give gentle reminders.
“You could say, ‘oh, don’t forget that tomorrow’s your lab work, so you’re not supposed to eat. I’ll leave a note for you and set out a glass of water.’”
Help him get established.
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. If you can help him get established with a doctor, he’ll be more likely to go down the road. 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 critical,” Dr. Rascoe said.
Colon cancer screening
Men and women should be screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50, or with a family history, 10 years before their relative was diagnosed.
“Colon cancer is very slow growing and starts with a polyp,” Dr. Rascoe said. “If you catch it early, it may be nothing more than a quick polyp removal and that’s it. You wake up and you’re cured.”
However, if you ignore symptoms or don’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 screening
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. “Once we check it and we get the results back, then we kind of individualize their care from there.”
Finding something abnormal on a screening can be scary — 7 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 than it is to cure it.
Help the man in your life find the right doctor.