Across the country, women tend to have “wellness” exams specifically designed for their anatomy and health. These well-women exams are extremely common, and if you ask any woman over the age of 18, she’ll likely tell you that she sees different specialists for her reproductive health and breast health along with her general practitioner.
However, there’s no such thing as a “well-men” exam. Most men see a regular PCP when it comes to the majority of their health concerns. While specific conditions can be taken care of by specialists, certain things specifically related to men’s health are often ignored or “caught” later on because of a lack of men’s wellness exams and healthcare specialists.
Why is that?
Let’s explore a bit further why men don’t have their own healthcare specialists, why it’s important, and why healthcare needs to be a greater priority for men across the country.
The Stigma Surrounding Men’s Healthcare
One of the reasons why men don’t have their own healthcare specialists is that they don’t seek out medical help as frequently as women. According to the CDC, women are 33% more likely to visit the doctor than men, and they’re 100% better at maintaining preventative care.
Men tend to avoid going to the doctor for routine checkups and are more likely to go when a problem arises.
A lot of this has to do with the stigma surrounding men’s healthcare. For far too long, stereotypes have come into play that suggest men are “weak” if they seek out medical help or go to preventative screenings. It’s especially problematic with mental health conditions, but it affects physical health issues, as well.
Even in today’s forward-thinking society, several studies and surveys have discovered that many men simply don’t like opening up about their health – even to doctors. Others have admitted that they haven’t been entirely honest with their physicians regarding their health or any symptoms they might be experiencing.
This is especially problematic for men who are experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction or those with prostate issues. They can be embarrassing to talk about, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve last seen a doctor. However, by the time those specific conditions become problematic, it might be time to see a different kind of specialist, rather than a general doctor.
Other reasons why men avoid going to the doctor include:
- General embarrassment
- Not wanting to be told to change their lifestyle
- Not wanting a damaging diagnosis
- Not wanting to be judged
Keep in mind that these avoidances refer to men going to their PCPs. In the healthcare industry, if there’s already a low number of men getting regular check-ups, there’s not going to be a driving need for healthcare specialists specifically targeting men’s health issues.
A Lack of Options
Unfortunately, because of so many stigmas and so much reluctance, another major issue men face is a lack of options and support in the healthcare industry. Men don’t have the same designated specialists as women, and there are fewer recommended preventative screenings for men than women.
That leaves many men “dropping out” of healthcare services altogether until a problem arises.
It also increases the discomfort level so many men have talking about gender-specific issues. For example, women have no problem talking about the results of a mammogram or pap smear with a specialist. Because men aren’t used to as many screenings and don’t often have specialists to converse with about their localized health screenings, it’s often uncomfortable and awkward for them to talk about it.
This lack of options has also contributed to a lack of education.
Many men don’t know what health screenings they should undergo each year. According to the Mayo Clinic, those annual screenings should include:
- Prostate cancer
- Colon cancer
- Blood pressure
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
If you have a family history of any other health conditions, it’s also important to undergo regular preventative care and testing for those, as well, instead of waiting for symptoms to present themselves.
What Can Be Done?
If you’re a man and some of these issues sound familiar, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve avoided getting annual screenings. Maybe you’re uncomfortable talking to your doctor about things. If a specialist was available for men’s healthcare, would you be inclined to go?
None of those questions are designed to make you feel guilty. However, if you truly want to live a healthy life, preventative healthcare should be a priority.
On a personal level, you can start to better yourself and pay more attention to your health by regularly visiting your doctor. Choose to be open and honest about questions you might have specifically regarding male issues. That includes everything from sexual reproductive concerns to specific illnesses men are more prone to.
Even things like low testosterone levels can be hard for some men to talk about (thanks to those stigmas!), but bringing such issues up to your doctor can get you back on track and keep your symptoms from getting worse.
On a larger scale, there are things you can do to reduce the stigma surrounding men’s health to encourage others to take better care of themselves. Start with other men in your life, and work to eliminate their perceived notions by:
- Knowing the facts about men’s healthcare and sharing them
- Being aware of your personal perspectives and behaviors
- Focusing on the positive aspect of healthcare screenings
- Supporting them
- Being ready to answer questions
You can choose to become an advocate for men’s health in such a way that the men in your life start to turn to you for advice or support when they’re struggling to seek out preventative care.
If more men “step up” and start to break down stigmas and stereotypes, the demand for healthcare specialists might increase. There could come a time when men have their own healthcare specialists who not only screen for specific conditions, but make it easier for men across the country to speak freely about things that have been considered “embarrassing” or “off-limits” in the past.