June is National Men’s Health Month, and it’s a great time to raise awareness for men’s self-care and support. The leading causes of death for men in America are heart disease and cancer. Lung cancer and skin cancer are the leading causes of cancer related deaths in America. Often because of the way men are raised, it can be easy to miss opportunities to prevent or diagnose these cancers due to societal pressure on men to endure pain and hardship rather than ask for help.
American women tend to outlive their male peers. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, and many of them are indicative of how differently men and women are raised. Men are taught to cope with pain, to endure hardships and “get over it” rather than “showing weakness” by seeking help. They are told that big boys don’t cry over skinned knees. The effect this has on men’s health can be seen in their adult lives.
Men are 24% less likely to visit a doctor than women, according to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the face of men’s health. Men experiencing symptoms of cancer are consequently less likely to have it checked out by a doctor. This makes regular screenings for cancer, such as colonoscopies and prostate exams, all the more important.
So what does this mean for men and their loved ones who care for their health? It means a conscientious effort to get regular screenings, watching for potential symptoms, commitment to seeing a doctor regularly and continual social and emotional support.
- Remind your loved ones to exercise self-care, such as watching for cancer symptoms and checking himself for testicular cancer. A video tutorial for the latter can be found here
- Watch for skin discolorations your loved one might dismiss or not see; this can be a symptom of skin cancer
- Sun or secondhand smoke exposure is something someone can feel pressured to “man up” and deal with, but regular sunscreen application and limiting exposure to intense sunlight or secondhand smoke prevents skin and lung cancer.
- Colorectal cancer is another one of the most common cancers for men. Everyone over 50 should get screened regularly for colorectal cancer.
- To help encourage family members to get checkups, have the entire family get their annual checkups around the same time of year.
- Reach out to give him love and emotional support. Men often face a social stigma attached to seeking emotional support themselves.
While these may seem like simple tips, they can be easily forgotten or dismissed the same way a child may not want to bandage his skinned knee. Make sure you and your loved ones take these steps to ensure longer and healthier lives.