Trying to Get Men to Take Responsibility for Their Health

After 11 years of working with men who are facing prostate cancer, I am amazed at the number guys who routinely refuse to engage in or delay discussions with their MDs, relatives, or close friends about what is occurring in their lives.

For some odd reason I have always been open about my health, kept up with routine physicals, and early on was motivated to eat healthy and keep active with physical exercise. Candidly I am here today because I was proactive when it came to self-care.

Why some men don't speak up about health

For better or worse I have come to the belief that the main reason men do not open up about health issues is simple: they do not want to be perceived as weak or vulnerable to anyone in their circle of influence. Perhaps it goes back to a survival of the fittest mindset and not wanting to be seen as prey.

Many in our support group fall back on excuses when asked about their medical care. Expressions such as “I did not have a doctor," or,  “I don't have the time to waste in an MD’s office.” Better yet was, “I did not want to waste the doctor’s time.”

On the surface all of these “reasons” sound good until we gently point out there are over 8,700 hours in a year. Of that number, approximately 2,000 hours are considered work hours. Basic math suggests that some 6,700 hours are available throughout the year where a guy could find a few minutes to schedule a physical exam. As an example, I would point out that when I traveled for business and was on the road for over 200+ days a year, I somehow found a way to plan for and carve out an hour to visit an MD.

What prompts men to take action

If you are someone or are partnered to someone who never has the time to visit an MD, here are a few insights into male behavior which may be of help.

Based on my conversations with couples, the number one motivator that prompts men into action are issues with sexual performance. When things are not working quite right, men will reluctantly visit an MD but typically only after trying one or more over-the-counter supplements hoping it will provide some relief. The issue with home remedies is their potential to mask the very warning signs of advancing prostate cancer.

Men often become more focused on their personal health if a close friend or business associate develops or dies from prostate cancer. At our sessions we actively encourage men to engage in conversation with other men and to share their experiences from diagnosis to treatment. One-on-one conversations can work wonders and at some point, a few guys will start making some changes.

We also found that getting men involved in an event like a cancer run or a bike race appeared to be very effective at getting men to speak up and engage in conversation with other men. Even participating in a Movember mustache growing contest was somewhat effective at raising awareness for both the men and the women at the office and elsewhere.

A real surprise

A real surprise in dealing with men was the number of them who routinely ignored pain or blood in their urine as warning signs. Equally shocking were the many men who considered pain as something that just needed to be accepted and lived with. It was at that point when I said to one group, "Silence is not a cure when it comes to prostate cancer." For some reason that phrase stuck in a lot of minds.

Those are my observations after a decade of living with and interacting with fellow prostate cancer survivors. If other readers have additional thoughts or solutions on how to get men to take responsibility for their personal health, please feel free to share them here.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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