Why Men Should Go to the Doctor

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on January 8, 2018

Do the men in your life avoid going to the doctor? Is it hard for them to even talk about getting a checkup?

If so, you have lots of company.  A 2014 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men are half as apt to see a doctor as are women over a two-year period.

However, men in the United States also die almost five years earlier than women, and they’re more likely to smoke, drink and engage in risky behavior.

Why won’t men see a doctor, even when they’re suffering?

“One of the big reasons is they’re afraid of hearing bad news,” said Amy Doolan, D.O., a physician with Carilion Clinic Family Medicine.

Preventing Chronic Disease
“Unfortunately, men are not giving themselves and us a chance to check before a small problem becomes a big problem,” Dr. Doolan said. “Checkups can really reduce their risk of suffering from significant disease.”    
  
Blocked heart arteries and high blood pressure, for instance, are just two things that can be silent killers in men. Both can cause terrible damage before a man is even aware of them.

Which screenings should men get? They include tests for:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Colon cancer
  • Liver disease (usually hepatitis)
  • Kidney disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer

“Unfortunately, we tend to find high blood pressure and high cholesterol in men when they’re already out of control,” Dr. Doolan noted.

Another reason to get regular checkups? A good doctor can help men make smart lifestyle choices.

“We like to talk to our patients about the benefits of exercise,” Dr. Doolan said. “We may also discuss the hazards of tobacco use, excessive drinking, illicit drugs and sexually transmitted diseases.”

And don’t be fooled. When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, southwest Virginia has its share.

“We see them fairly commonly, but men don’t typically go to the doctor for it,” said Dr. Doolan. “We usually see the women who get it.”
 
While screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol should start at a young age, testing for colon and prostate cancer typically begins at age 50 for men at average risk (no close relatives diagnosed). There are also screening considerations for testicular cancer. 

“Screening options for prostate and testicular cancer can be a complex conversation and it is important for patients to have this conversation with their physician," Dr. Doolan added.

Finding the Right Doctor
How can you help your husband, brother or son get the checkups he needs?

Make sure he knows that while we all like to feel that we’re in control of our lives, health problems have a way of creeping up on us. Then help him find a good doctor, and go to the appointment with him, if he likes.

“Either way, give us the opportunity to find and prevent disease,” said Dr. Doolan. “Take a leap of faith. Come to us. Ask us questions. We’re here to help in any way possible.”

After all, it comes down to building an ongoing relationship with the doctor—hopefully for years to come. And that’s a two-way street.

For more information, see Men's Health: Guidelines for Every Age.