Let's face it, no one particularly enjoys visiting their doctor and baring all about their health. But if you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of these 'embarrassing' symptoms, you should seek medical advice.
Sharing the intimate details of what might be bothering you with a relative stranger can feel awkward and uncomfortable, as well as slightly embarrassing.
But for men, it seems that the discomfort can unfortunately lead to not visiting the doctor nearly as much as women – in fact one survey, conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that men are half as likely to visit the doctors with symptoms as women are, over a two-year-period.
And, a 2018 study of 1,000 men conducted by Gilette, shared that three quarters of men they spoke to put off going to the doctors, even when they were showing signs of an illness. But what’s the reason? The study reported that a quarter of their respondents said it was because they didn’t have time, with one in 10 consistently forgetting to book an appointment.
A 2016 online survey commissioned by the Orlando Health hospital system also revealed that 21 per ceet of men were afraid of finding out what may be wrong, while a further 18 per cent said they felt too uncomfortable during body exams (prostate or rectal), despite them being a able to identify signs of cancer in men.
How ‘stoicism’ is damaging men’s health
And many people who have shared their opinions on the topic, have deduced that the British ‘stiff upper lip’, and outdated concepts of masculine ‘soldiering on’, could well be to blame, too.
John Chisholm, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee, told The Telegraph that the male culture of ‘stoicism’ is damaging men’s health. “There is a cultural understanding that all men should be macho. But we need to understand that this expectation of stoic masculinity is putting lives at risks – men shouldn’t be bottling these things up,” said John.
But of course, men are just as likely to experience health issues as women, and with prostate cancer deaths (a cancer that affects only men) on the rise, it’s vital to try and overcome these barriers to seeking help. So which embarrassing cancer symptoms should the men in our lives not be ignoring?
1) A painless lump in the breast area
It’s not just women who can get breast cancer, although it’s often considered to be a female-only cancer. Around 390 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, according to Cancer Research UK, and the most common symptom is a lump in the breast area, which is nearly always painless.
Men will get similar symptoms to women, including a discharge from the nipple, swelling of the breast, a nipple retraction, lumps under the arm, or a rash on or around the nipple. If you’re a man and experience any of the above symptoms, don’t hesitate to book in with your GP.
2) Lump on testicle
Although testicular cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer, it is still important to pay attention to what feels normal for you and your body. Typical symptoms of the cancer include a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles – so if you notice one, don’t head straight to your doctors. When caught early, testicular cancer is highly treatable, so you’ll be giving yourself the best chance if you seek medical advice as soon as possible.
But often, there’s no need to panic unduly if you spot a lump on your testicle, as many can be harmless, with lots of them caused by something like a build-up of fluid (such as a cyst), or a swollen vein.
3) Inability to keep an erection
It’s no doubt an embarrassing topic with plenty of stigma around it, but not being able to get and keep an erection is a serious and frustrating problem for men. It’s estimated to affect 4.3 million men in the UK, and while erectile dysfunction can be temporary, due to stress, it’s not something men need to suffer in silence about, with doctors now able to offer many effective treatments, such as hormone replacements or medicines, such as Viagra.
Erectile dysfunction may also be a sign of other health issues too – making it even more important to investigate. The NHS notes that ED can be an early sign of high blood pressure or diabetes, or even cardiovascular disease. So it’s vital to seek help – however awkward it may feel.
4) Pain during urination, blood in urine, or a frequent need to urinate
Talking about your toilet habits is never pleasant, but discussing them with your doctor could save your life. The above symptoms, all to do with your urine, are some of the main symptoms of bladder cancer, as well as sudden urges to urinate. Bladder cancer is the 8th most common cancer for men, with around 7,200 new cases in 2016, compared to a smaller 2,600 in women.
However, it’s important to know that these symptoms can all also be a sign of prostate cancer too, the most common cancer in men in the UK currently. These symptoms arise when the prostate grows large enough to affect the tube that carries urine out and away from the penis. Other prostate cancer symptoms include a weak urine flow, a feeling your bladder hasn’t properly emptied, and taking a long time to pee.
5) Feeling anxious, depressed, or struggling to cope with life
The stigma surrounding men’s health issues can be a huge barrier to seeking help – and this is no different when it comes to men’s mental health too. The Samaritans report that in the UK, men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women, and the suicide rate is highest specifically amongst middle aged men – those aged between 45 and 49.
In a 2012 report, the Samaritans concluded that the increased suicide risk in men was down to a couple of important factors – including the societal expectations for them to be ‘masculine’, unemployment, as well as socio-economic class/status. They said, “Men compare themselves against a masculine ‘gold standard’ which prizes power, control and invincibility. Having a job and providing for the family is central to this, especially for working class men. When men believe they are not meeting that standard, they feel a sense of shame and defeat.”
It can be incredibly difficult to open up to your mental health to loved ones, let alone a health care professional – but it’s vital that we do. Sharing how we’re feeling can take away some of the burden, and is the very first step in getting help, knowing that it really can get better.
Remember, mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering – in fact, the Mental Health Foundation says that 1 in 6 adults experience a common mental health problem every week, including anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
If you feel like you are struggling, visit the Mind website HERE. either click their ‘Talk to us’ button, or their ‘I need urgent help’ button.
And. book an appointment with your GP today.