You’re not the only guy that doesn’t like going to the doctor. Visiting the doctor was easy when you were a kid. Your parents set up your appointment, drove you to the doctor, and gave you a treat if you got a shot. Now the responsibility is all on your shoulders, and if you’re being totally honest, you miss the days you could get chauffeured to the pediatrician. Many men have a hard time visiting the doctor. Men admit to being too busy, feeling afraid of what a doctor might tell them, and wanting to avoid being naked in front of a stranger at all costs. While these feelings are understandable, they can have serious consequences for your health. Read on to learn what doctors wish men knew, and see if you aren’t convinced to finally schedule that appointment.
1. Your doctor isn’t going to judge you.
Assuming this isn’t your doctor’s first year out of medical school, he’s likely already seen a lot. Whatever you’re going to tell him (or show him) probably isn’t going to surprise him. Whether it’s been a long time since your last checkup, or you eat too many cheeseburgers, or you have one too many drinks for time to time, your doctor isn’t going to judge you. Your doctor just wants what’s best for you. His job is to work with you so that you can be at your best health.
2. You should go to the doctor even if you feel healthy.
Even if you take great care of yourself, you should still see a doctor for regular check-ups. Getting regular physicals gives your doctor a good knowledge of where your healthy baseline is. If you have problems in the future, you and your doctor will both know how your body functions when it is healthy. Your doctor can also give you tips if you want to try to become even healthier. Exams can also reveal problems that may be hidden. Ana Fadich, MPH, the vice president of the Men’s Health Network explains, “You could have an accumulation of plaque that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. …You could have high cholesterol and not know about it. There are people who are vegan who have high cholesterol because it runs in their family.” You might find out nothing is wrong, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Don’t wait for an emergency to see your doctor.
When we get sick, most of us just hope our body will eventually heal itself. While this sometimes happen, there are times when you need to see a doctor to get better. You may have had a cough for a few weeks and assume you just have a virus, but you could have something more serious like pneumonia. Waiting until your problem has gotten out of control will make it that much harder for a doctor to treat you when you finally go in for a visit. Regular check-ups can help doctors catch problems before they become major issues. Building a relationship with your doctor will also make it less scary to call when you get sick in between physicals.
4. You’re not alone in fearing bad news.
When people think something is wrong with them, they have a tendency to procrastinate calling their doctor. It’s not that they want their problem to get worse, they’re just afraid of what the doctor is going to tell them. While it might be easier not knowing what’s happening in your body, ignorance doesn’t make the problem magically go away. The longer you put off getting checked out, the worse your issue can get. If you’re in this situation, call your doctor and get some answers.
5. Doctors know what you’re going through.
Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt and Dr. Sijo Parekattil are the founders of the Orlando Health’s Personalized Urology & Robotics Clinic. They are men’s health activists, and they took a trip around the country to encourage men to prioritize their health. Brahmbhatt says that he understands why men are reluctant to see their doctor. He doesn’t look forward to having a rectal exam done either. Since he gets his health care at the hospital where he works, he also gets nervous about being naked in front of a colleague. He spoke with the Huffington Post about how doctors can relate to the apprehension of their patients. He said, “You’re getting some of the most sensitive parts of your body examined. But we, as physicians, are very [aware] about the sensitivity in some of these private organs, so we’re not out to hurt you.”
6. Visiting a doctor can challenge gender norms.
In our society, men are supposed to be strong and impervious to weakness. You’re not supposed to be vulnerable, and there are few things more exposing than asking for help from a doctor when you’re wearing a paper-thin hospital gown. Professor Glenn Good teaches at the University of Florida and studies masculinity and male psychology. He says, “Going to a physician involves a couple of things that may feel uncomfortable for men. They don’t want to ask for directions and they don’t want to have to consult an expert about something that they know less about.”
Even though women are supposed to be the ones who struggle with their body image, many men also feel self-conscious about their weight and their appearance. This might be enough for some men to put off a doctor’s appointment. Good says that it can be good to think about strength in a different way. “The metaphor of a tree is a helpful one,” he said. “A truly strong tree can flex and bend in the wind, but a tree that is really rigid and stiff is more likely to get snapped.” If you can adapt your idea of strength to include getting naked at the doctor’s office without being totally terrified, you’ll be well on your way to better health.
7. Routine check-ups can save your life.
Dr. Brahmbhatt has seen this first hand. He had a patient who was a firefighter. The man was in great shape and exercised regularly. The man found a bump on his testicle, but like many people would do in his situation, he hoped it would go away if he just ignored it. When the man visited Brahmbhatt, he was told that he had testicular cancer. “If he had waited another six months or a year, it would have definitely spread to the rest of his body,” Brahmbhatt said. This is just one example of how regular visits to your doctor are necessary for optimal health.
8. Good health care is about teamwork.
Good health care depends on a strong doctor and patient partnership. Being open and honest with your doctor will help him give you the best care he can provide. He can’t treat you for something if he doesn’t know about it. This is why it doesn’t help to hide things out of embarrassment. Give truthful answers if your health assessment, and if you’re experiencing pain or are having problems, let your doctor know. Remember that you don’t have to handle everything by yourself. But because health care is a partnership between you and your doctor, you also have a responsibility to be forthcoming and to follow through on recommendations your doctor gives you. If your doctor suggests cutting back on red meat or trying to exercise more often, it’s in your own best interest to listen to what he says.
9. It helps to know your health history.
Obviously, doctors don’t expect you to know the exact date of every cold and virus you’ve ever had. But it helps them to know what you’ve experienced in your life. They’ll likely ask you if you’ve had any surgeries or major operations. They’ll also ask you about chronic conditions and what prescriptions you take (if any). Doctors recommend eventually keeping track of your medical records including copies of x-rays, pathology and operative reports, and medication lists with information about why and when you take them. This will help you stay “health literate” and be an expert of your own health.
10. An STI test isn’t a once in a lifetime thing.
Every sexually active person should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Doctors also recommend being retested every time you have sexual relations with a new partner. This is a health precaution but is also pretty logical. If you have contracted an STI since your last test, chances are your most recent partner infected you. This saves you the awkwardness of calling all of your past sexual partners to let them know about your STI test results. One last thing: if you have male sex partners, you could be at a higher risk of contracting HIV and other STIs. Even more reason to see your doctor regularly.
11. Watching TV (or searching the internet) doesn’t substitute for seeing a real doctor.
Don’t believe everything you hear on TV. Doctors wish their patients knew how to decipher between facts and exaggerated promises made in “direct-to-consumer” ads. Reading WebMD and listening to self-proclaimed health experts like Dr. Oz does not give you the ability to diagnose yourself. There is a reason websites and TV shows come with so many disclaimers. They are not evaluating you as an individual, so they can’t compare to the real examination your doctor can provide.
12. Know the recommendations for special health screenings.
Your doctor can tell you when you will need to be screened for certain diseases and conditions. There are age recommendations for when screenings are typically done, but based on your family history and other factors, your doctor may wish for you to have your screenings done earlier. Prostate exams begin at age 50, but black men should get screenings done at 45 if they’ve had a close relative diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than 65. Most men between 18 and 39 should have a blood pressure screening every two years, but some men may need an annual check. Men above 45 need to have a diabetes screening every three years. This test may start earlier for men who are overweight. Cholesterol and heart disease screenings begin at 35 and occur every five years. Finally, colon cancer screenings begin at age 50 and continue every five to 10 years until you turn 75. Get in the habit of tracking your screenings now, then when you’re in your fifties, you won’t get scheduled for annual colonoscopies accidentally.
13. Don’t forget about mental health.
Many men are raised to not talk about their feelings or to show certain emotions. But studies show that about 30 percent of men admit to having experienced depression. If you think you may be depressed or are experiencing another mental health issue, speak to your doctor. Sharing your feelings, no matter how hard it may be, could save your life. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for men, and men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Even if you don’t feel that you are at this point, talking with your doctor may help you feel better.
14. Seeing the doctor when you’re young can help create healthy habits.
Seeing the doctor for routine check-ups when you’re in your twenties will give you opportunities to learn about creating lifelong healthy habits. Your doctor can give you information about how to achieve your best health and lower your risk for certain diseases. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women, but certain habits can prevent people from getting the disease in the first place. Eating healthy foods, eating in moderation, exercising, not smoking, reducing sodium intake, and drinking alcohol in moderation are all way to keep heart disease at bay. See your doctor when you’re young so you’re not trying to cover lost ground after having something like a heart attack when you’re older.
15. This is the only body you get.
Like we said, there’s no reason to be embarrassed about your body, your habits, or your lack of visits to the doctor. If you haven’t seen your doctor for a while or haven’t even established with a doctor as an adult, now is the time to do it. “You can’t go rent another body and you can’t go use someone else’s body,” says Brahmbhatt. “It’s all you have, so why not take good care of it as you do everything outside your body that has a price tag?”