A worrying attitude that's killing men

A man sitting on a sofa

“It’s probably nothing”

These words can have devastating significance in healthcare. 

Far too often we hear regret from distraught patients and family members wishing they had seen their doctor or health specialist sooner.

If only they hadn't ignored the warning signs. If only they’d had a check-up the problem would have been diagnosed and treated before it became life threatening.

Significantly, it’s a scenario that is far more likely to concern men than women.

For when it comes to personal health and being prodded and probed by a doctor or dentist, men often turn a blind eye, and put it down to getting older or believing symptoms will just go away.

Even the most experienced police officers, who never hesitate at putting their own safety at risk in the line of duty, baulk when it comes to seeing a doctor. And that’s a serious mistake.

The tragedy is that thousands of men of all ages are dying unnecessarily from treatable conditions simply because they fail to visit a doctor.

It’s one of the reasons why men have a shorter lifespan than women – on average they die about five years earlier.

Monty Python Syndrome …“It’s only a flesh wound”

Research into doctor visits in Australia and the US has highlighted the extent of the gender gap – and the difference is considerable.

One survey found that men are half as likely as women to visit a doctor over a two-year period and more than three times less likely over five years.

Men are also more than twice as likely to say they’ve never had contact with a doctor or health professional as an adult.

Men have a tendency to ignore persistent aches and pains and even lumps on their body – all potential indicators of something serious – in the hope that they’ll disappear.

They are also less likely to be honest with their doctor and fail to mention symptoms when they do eventually get to the surgery.

Researchers have tried to pinpoint exactly why it is that males are so reluctant to have their health checked.

Reasons given include being too busy, along with shame, discomfort and, invariably, fear.

One psychological study blamed the need for men to present a masculine image of bravery and self-reliance – and they see going to the doctor as a sign of weakness.

After all, what you don't know won't hurt you, right?

We all know that’s a ridiculous attitude. Prevention programs are a vital part of health care so be brave and see your GP. It could save you years of misery, pain and an early death.

Preventative health checks

In developed countries about seven in every 10 people die from a chronic illness such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.

Many of these conditions can be avoided or successfully treated if the warning signs are caught early.

How often you have preventive check-ups depends on your age, health and risk factors for certain diseases.

Here are some guidelines for both men and women, however your GP may recommend a more tailored prevention plan depending on your risk factors and medical history:

20 onwards

Blood pressure

Check at least every two years because high blood pressure is a major cause of stroke, heart disease and heart failure.

Cholesterol and glucose

Check every two to five years because high levels increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Skin cancer

Self-check regularly for suspicious lumps or spots and every year with your doctor.


Check up at least once a year.

Testicular cancer (for men)

Self-checks every month and by a doctor for unusual lumps or swellings of the testes.

Cervical cancer (for women)

Pap smears every two years even if you’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine.

40 onwards


Eye tests every two years because glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in Australia.

Breast cancer (for women)

Monthly self-checks and a mammogram every two years.

50 onwards

Prostate cancer

Annual checks for men and from the age of 40 if you have a family history. 


A bone density scan every five years.

Colon (Bowel) cancer

A faecal occult blood test every two years.

In addition to these regular health checks, see your doctor immediately if you have any unexplained or worrying symptoms.

Please note

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