Whether due to some lingering stereotype of toughness, a lack of time, or a lack of awareness of major men’s health issues, the CDC reports that men are two times less likely to go to the doctor than women.

Getting Men to Go to the Doctor

I interviewed Dr. Andrew Adams, an Allegheny Health Network Internal Medicine specialist, on this and related men’s health issues after a seminar he offered for Highmark employees. He says many, if not most, of his appointments with men are set up by their wives.

The “Big Three” Topics in Men’s Health

This is a problem, of course, as — according to Adams — “If you look at most, if not all, metrics, men are significantly less healthy than women.” A big contributing factor to this statistic is that men, on the whole, aren’t necessarily aware of the variety of health conditions and risks they face throughout life. Adams cites colon cancer, heart disease, and lung cancer as “The Big Three” of men’s health topics, noting that there is a lot men can do to mitigate their risk for these diseases. Getting the necessary information out, though, is a different challenge.

Promoting Men’s Health Topics

Unlike women’s health topics — which have multiple national campaigns throughout the year, including October’s highly successful Breast Cancer Awareness efforts — men’s health issues don’t get the same kind of attention. Though prostate cancer is beginning to enter the public’s awareness a bit more, Adams believes there is a great deal of room for improvement.

Men’s Health in the Press

Adams notes that, while an event centered on a women’s health topic like the Komen Race for the Cure will bring thousands of supporters, a similar event tied to a men’s health issue is likely to yield only a few hundred participants. He also states that part of the problem is the lack of coverage of men’s health topics in the popular press, noting that women’s magazines and other publications place a much greater emphasis on doctor’s visits, while publications aimed at men are almost universally devoid of similar information.

Talking to the Doc

The good news, Dr. Adams says, is that once men get into the office, they don’t seem to have much trepidation about being honest with their doctor. To Adams, it’s a much bigger challenge to get men to schedule and keep their appointments in the first place.

The other piece of good news is that men’s health issues are gaining prevalence, if progress is slow. Adams cites Major League Baseball’s “blue bats” effort, wherein players used blue bats and wore blue cleats to raise awareness for prostate cancer. Likewise, November has recently transformed into Movember, with men foregoing shaving throughout the month to promote awareness for a range of men’s health topics. As Adams notes, there is obviously a lot of room for improvement, but efforts like these are a step in the right direction.

Toughen Up: How to Grab your Health by the Horns

  1. See your Doctor Regularly:
    For men under forty, when you’re feeling healthy, this means making sure to schedule a check-up or physical once every two or three years. Of course, when you start to feel sick or injured, this means getting to the ASAP to find out what’s going on.Men forty and over should see their doctors at least once a year for a check-up, and should begin to discuss different screenings for cancer and other diseases with their doctors.
  2. Get Screened:
    Talk with your doctor about how often you should receive screenings for various conditions and diseases, especially as you approach the 40-year-old mark.
  3. Listen to the Doc:
    If your doctor prescribes a medication and tells you to take all of it, as directed—take all of it, even if you feel better before you’re done with the whole prescription. Likewise, when your doctor tells you to start exercising more, eat less red meat, and make sure you’re getting all the vitamins you need, do that, too.
  4. Listen to your Body:
    At any age, it’s important to be able to read your body’s feedback. If you notice a strange spot or lump somewhere, go see the doctor. If something doesn’t feel right when you move, breathe, or swallow, get it checked out.

Dr. Andrew Adams is an internal medicine specialist within the Allegheny Health Network, with offices at West Penn Medical Associates in both Bloomfield and Oakmont.