When was the last time you ignored a symptom in your body, gents? When was the last time you had pain when going to the toilet? Do you get up too often in the night to pee? Ever struggle to get an erection? I’m willing to bet that a lot of you have ignored these symptoms of serious diseases.
I’m afraid that’s simply not good enough. We need to get better at this.
Why are we ignoring our health?
I think, as men, we are often all too ready to try to look past our health problems. After all, it’s a little embarrassing to have to talk to a GP about blood in your pee or not being able to get an erection, so probably best to forget about it, right? Embarrassment is certainly playing a part in this, but, unfortunately, so is ignorance.
I think we ignore our bodies because we don’t understand our bodies. Take the prostate for example. Do you know what a prostate does? If you don’t, you’re not the only one. According to polling performed by The Urology Foundation, two thirds of Brits don’t know what a prostate does. So I ask, how can we look after our bodies if we don’t understand them?
Why should we care?
I’m a urologist and surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospital and my particular specialism is prostate surgery, which means I have seen countless men come to our hospital with prostate cancer. After meeting so many men with life threatening illnesses, I have two answers to this question.
Firstly, believe me when I tell you that having prostate cancer, testicular cancer, or bladder cancer is not an experience that you want to go through. If you don’t catch them early enough, these diseases have a very good chance of ending your life and even if they don’t do that, the road to recovery is very rough.
For sure, your symptoms might not be a sign of a cancer, but they can still be a sign of horrible diseases that ruin lives. Erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and kidney failure are just a few examples of diseases that cause lives to crumble. Poor health can completely transform, or even end, your life. So we should mostly certainly care about it.
Secondly, gents, we have wives, husbands, daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends. Strange as it may seem to us, these people love us and if we go, we leave behind a big hole in their lives. For the sake of those who love us, we have to care about our health.
What should we do about it?
Well, like I said, there’s two things that are holding us back: embarrassment and ignorance. So let’s do something about them.
Let’s start with embarrassment. There’s too much shame that comes with men’s health problems. Men don’t want to talk about blood in their pee or in their semen. They especially don’t want to talk about emasculating topics like erectile dysfunction, male infertility, or incontinence.
The problem with this ‘shame complex’ is that it doesn’t help anyone. You will still (needlessly) feel wracked by shame, you won’t get the emotional support you need from loved ones and you won’t be getting the medical attention you need.
The truth is that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. As an example, half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 have a problem with erectile dysfunction. You’re really not on your own, so don’t feel you have to hide your worries and your health. Talk to each other about these problems. But, more importantly, talk to your doctor about them.
September is Urology Awareness Month, so you can start by sharing your experiences of urology disease using #urologyawareness.
A hat tip to Stephen Fry, here, who did an excellent job by talking about his own prostate cancer. Make sure you watch his video.
Now on to ignorance. This one is a simple fix. Learn about your body and learn about the signs and symptoms of men’s health problems. You can find out about a range of them on The Urology Foundation’s website and when you notice something that isn’t normal for your body (peeing too often, pain when peeing, anything like that) then go and see your doctor right away.
Let’s do ourselves proud, gents. For the sake of all of those who love us, let’s take back control of our health.