CHANTILLY, Va. (WDVM)– If you’ve ever had a close call with cancer, or been able to overcome an aggressive disease or health problem, chances are, you probably had that medical issue detected early. But not everybody is that fortunate, a worrying number of men in this country don’t get medical attention until it’s too late.
WDVM spoke with doctors who are using real-life examples to show you why it’s so important to get those regular check-ups.
Doctors said many men are not as proactive about their health as they should be.
Dr. Rex Ruiz, Family Medicine of Clifton/Centreville said, “For the longest time most of us have thought us to be invincible, and we don’t go to the doctor unless we’re having chest pain.”
Up to 40% of men do not see a primary care provider unless they have a serious health issue. Early detection of disease increases the chance of overcoming it, especially when it comes to cancer screenings.
“So many younger people die from colon cancer, Chadwick Boseman. We want to prevent those patients who have to get screened early and get a colonoscopy if needed,” said Ruiz.
Dr. Ruiz said many of his male patients are 40 and older, but even young adults who are 18 to 30, should still get checked regularly. Ruiz believes toxic masculinity plays a big factor in men not regularly going to the doctor because they’re taught to “Suck it up.”
Medical experts said when it comes to preventative care men should be getting regular blood pressure checks, screenings for cancer, all while maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Emily Faltemier, Family Medicine of Clifton/Centreville said, “If something’s wrong people are ready to come in but if they feel fine I think it’s hard to get them to understand where preventive screening comes into play, but we know it plays a pretty valuable role, and this has been a huge issue especially with covid, people avoiding coming in for routine checks.”
Emily has been practicing medicine for 11 years and she says women are 100% more likely to visit a doctor for annual exams and preventative services. Most of the time she finds herself having to tailor her approach with her male patients.
“A lot of my male patients they’re here because of their wife or their significant other has made the appointment for them to kind of get checked out, or I think a big driver is maybe something medical has happened in their family, maybe something happened to dad and all of a sudden they think “oh wait” could this happen to me?” said Dr. Faltemier.
To make matters worse doctors say they saw a decline in male patients last year, due in large part to the pandemic.
“Routine care last year was terrible across the board, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Interestingly some of the insurance companies pivoted and they were allowing us to do wellness exams virtually. not all of them, but that was a pretty awesome change,” said Dr. Faltemier.
Faltemier said since video visits remain an option, it’s been easier for her to reach patients who necessarily wouldn’t have came in pre-pandemic. but the one thing some men still lack is trust.
“I think we certainly hope that we can provide you know better primary care for our male patients. I think a lot of it is just their willingness to access the system and our willingness to be available to them which I think we have the capacity to be available to them,” said Dr. Faltemier.
Medical experts say they hope to see the cultural and social barriers preventing regular checkups for men will someday be a thing of the past.