Talking to men about health screenings

It's a common cliché to say that men don't like going to the doctor's office. While it may be funny to see it played out on TV, unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in real life.

And while a man might finally go to the doctor after being in pain for a long time, it can be harder yet to get him to schedule a preventative health visit. The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," should not apply to one's health, especially in middle age. Yet many men refuse to even bring up their health in casual conversation. In fact, a Cleveland Clinic study of men aged 18-70 found that 53 percent of respondents simply didn't consider their health to be a topic for conversation when interacting with their peers. And when men do talk about their health, the conversation tends to focus on topics such as sports injuries or weight gain. Sexual health is often completely off the table.

Many types of health screenings
Throughout life, it's important for men to get different types of health screenings. Sometimes it can seem as if an individual's reluctance to get screened is quite arbitrary. For instance, a male patient may believe that regular dental exams are normal, but prostate exams are taboo. Normalizing all types of health screenings is one way that nurses can help their patients take care of themselves.

Depending on a patient's age, medical history and family history, he may want to consider getting screened for any of these issues:

  • High cholesterol.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Colon cancer.
  • Prostate cancer.
  • Skin cancer.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Mental health.

For some of these issues, healthcare professionals can count on the help of public figures to spread awareness. For instance, actor Jim Carrey talks openly about his struggle with depression and urged men to consider their own mental health. Likewise, actor Hugh Jackman spoke to his fans about his battles with skin cancer, and encouraged people to get screened and to always wear sun block. Check out the example below:

Barriers to communication
Many of the barriers to communication about men's health stem from culture. Men want to be viewed by their peers as tough or even invincible. As the Cleveland Clinic's study showed, men are willing to talk about "hero injuries" such as sprains received on the basketball court, but remain silent when the topic changes to something that may make them feel vulnerable.

Understanding these social taboos is the first step to breaking them down. Nurses and doctors can approach the topic from a confidential standpoint. If men aren't willing to talk about their health out in public, they may be open to talking in private. Showing that other kinds of health screenings are normal, such as a visit to the dentist, can help promote a better relationship between patients and their doctors.

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