Men’s health: bring it into the spotlight

First published Sunday 9 November 2014 in The Argus

Barnaby Chappell –consultant urological surgeon
Barnaby Chappell –consultant urological surgeon

If you’re a guy who waits until something is seriously wrong before going to the doctor, you’re not alone.

The same can be said when it comes to raising awareness or money for cancer. The ladies are pipping guys to the post. So is there a solution? We need to start talking about it first.

It’s a common problem among men…a reluctance to talk about our health and more specifically, the prostate, penis or bladder.

It’s understandable really, problems ‘down there’ don’t exactly make us feel our most masculine and talking about any type of health issue is never easy. But we need to face up to the problems.

It’s not the easiest thing to talk to your doctor about but early detection along with raising awareness of men’s health is important.

I can understand why men shy away from issues with their urinary tract, erectile dysfunction or prostate but, like most illness or disease, we need to know more about these problems, and although the more we search for them, the more cases we find. It does help us get closer to helping people live longer with something like prostate cancer.

With the PSA test for example, we can identify who might be at risk of prostate cancer and monitor them accordingly. The earlier we spot symptoms, the greater the chance of finding curative solutions for them.

Symptoms don’t always mean bad news and, if men visit their doctor early on, they might save themselves a whole lot of worry.

Many of the signs that people associate with the prostate can be harmless.

For example, problems urinating can be caused by the enlarging of the prostate gland, but that does not necessarily mean cancer.

Also, erectile dysfunction can actually have more to do with the heart and can precede heart conditions that may present themselves in a few years time. So it’s definitely worthwhile being examined to manage, prevent or treat that.

Despite more than 40,000 new cases of prostate cancer being diagnosed each year, the disease is still rarely talked about in public, compared with something like breast cancer.

Women are way ahead of us in terms of raising awareness for their own cancers such as breast or ovarian cancer. Men are lagging behind simply because of a reluctance to talk about these problems.

It’s an issue that is getting better. Now, for example, we have ‘Movember’ when men are encouraged to grow a moustache for a month to help highlight male cancers. But there’s still a fair way to go.

The biggest challenge is not only to get men to spot symptoms, or to see their GP, but to talk about it openly. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Barnaby Chappell works for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and has a private clinic at Goring Hall Hospital near Worthing.