Men don’t like to visit the doctor. It’s an established problem across men of all ages – and the results of this reticence can be disastrous. Catching a serious disease early can literally be the difference between life and death.
Young strapping men can be especially reluctant to visit the doc, fuelled by the perceived invincibility of youth and mistaken notions that a stiff upper lip is what’s required to solve any problem. For more information on the kind of symptoms young men cannot ignore, we spoke to Professor Chris Nutting, professor of clinical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital.
Why are men more hesitant to visit the doctor?
A lack of time is often the reason men give for avoiding the doc and clearly that can be true for some, but often it’s an excuse that masks either squeamishness about having their bodies examined or a lack of understanding that their symptoms could be serious.
“A lack of awareness of what is normal for their body and poor understanding of the warning signs for cancer are both reasons men might be hesitant to visit,” says Nutting.
How does this affect men’s health?
A report published in the British Journal Of Cancer in 2016 stated that 44% of men with prostate cancer delay visiting their GP about their symptoms for three months or more. In contrast, only 8% of women put off the visit when breast cancer symptoms appear.
Delaying your visit to the doctor is especially serious with cancer because it enables the disease to spread. Cancer Research UK has found that men are 15% more likely to develop cancer but 36% more likely to die from it than women, simply because their symptoms are not caught as early.
Young men are less likely to get many cancers than older men, but it is still a serious issue if symptoms appear and aren’t checked.
“The commonest cancers in 25- to 49-year-old men are head and neck cancer, testicular cancer, melanoma and bowel cancer,” says Nutting.
“All of these tumours show a rapid decline in cure rate if they spread. For example, head and neck cancer has a cure rate of about 80% if caught early compared with less than 50% if more advanced.”
Which symptoms should young men be especially wary of?
Naturally it can be hard for laymen to understand when a symptom is an indicator of cancer rather than something less serious – and with that in mind it’s always wise to be safe rather than sorry. If any of these symptoms appear, it’s definitely not something to ignore.
“You should definitely see a doctor if you have a lump in your neck, swelling of a testicle, black skin lesions which are irregular in shape, growing or bleeding, a change in bowel habit, or blood in your poo or urine,” says Nutting.