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Dr Ian Banks
"A major shift in attitude is needed"
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Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Men's heads in the sand over health
Extreme sport
Men take more risks than women
A man rode his motorbike 200 miles home after perforating an intestinal ulcer because he was too embarrassed to see anyone other than his own doctor.

The case is typical of men's refusal to seek medical help when they need it, regarding health as "a women's issue".

Men and boys have a difficulty differentiating between machoism and masculinity

Dr Ian Banks, Men's Health Forum
The man was in intense pain and could have died during the four hour journey home from the Midlands to the south of England.

When he eventually got to the doctor's surgery, an ambulance was called and he was taken straight to hospital.

The motorbike stayed locked up in a room at the GP practice until the 42-year-old had sufficiently recovered from the duodenal ulcer to come and collect it two weeks later.

In another example of the potentially fatal ostrich-approach to their health adopted by many men, a 55-year-old with advanced prostate cancer refused to see his doctor despite repeatedly finding blood in his underpants.

The patient resisted demands from his wife to see the family GP for six months and the cancer had spread from his prostate to other parts of his body by the time he was finally persuaded to consult a doctor.

He eventually died of the disease and his preventable death is just one among thousands in the UK each year.

A whole range of diseases which affect male and female patients equally have a greater chance of killing men, simply because they do not seek help - men have a 50% higher chance of dying of the skin cancer melanoma, for instance, despite a similar number of cases as women.

Men on average visit their GP half as often as women.


And there are three to four times as many suicides among young men as young women.

Men also take more risks and four times as many die from accidents each year as women.

Experts in the field say there is a massive amount of work to be done to redress the balance and that massive shifts in culture are needed.

Dr Ian Banks, chairman of the Men's Health Forum and spokesman on the topic for the British Medical Association (BMA), says the root of the problem lies in men's inability to distinguish between positive and negative aspects of being male.

This is compounded by the fact that they are brought up to think of the subject as a women's issue and are given little information about their health in schools.

Dr Banks said: "Men and boys have a difficulty differentiating between machoism and masculinity. Sometimes there is a mix-up.

"From a young age they are brought up to think that health is a women's issue. It is the mother usually who takes them to the doctor and education in schools is tailored towards girls."

Women were also more aware of their health needs, he said, and had a different perception of the role of their GP.

Bloke's Health Charter
1. Get and stay hitched
2. Have sex with a regular partner at least twice a week
3. Have a drink or two (but don't binge)
4. Get fitter and leaner
5. Eat a healthy diet
6. Get a life
7. Don't smoke
8. Don't do drugs

He added: "A woman going to a male doctor with a sore nose would not find it unusual to be asked about breast awareness, whereas a man going in with a similar complaint who was asked whether he checks his testicles might consider it inappropriate."

He welcomed the government's drive to tackle inequalities between men and women's health care, but said a major change of attitude was needed across the world of politics and medicine.

Dr Alistair Moulds is a GP in Basildon, Essex, who co-authored with Dr Keith Hopcroft "A Bloke's Diagnose It Yourself Guide to Health", which includes the eight-point "Bloke's Health Charter".

He said: "Men do not need to go to the doctor more often, but they do need to go more quickly in some cases.

"Men delay because they hope it will go away. They are worried about the doctor telling them there is something wrong with them and they are also worried about wasting the doctor's time."

And he warns: "I don't know that you can change the culture - it is part of being a bloke."

A Bloke's Diagnose It Yourself Guide to Health, by Dr Keith Hopcroft and Dr Alistair Moulds, Oxford University Press, 10

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See also:

17 Apr 00 | Health
Young men 'failed over suicide'
24 May 99 | Health
Men 'need more health care'
27 Sep 99 | Health
Crisis in men's health targeted
29 Feb 00 | Health
Men 'don't seek medical help'
29 Mar 00 | Health
Plans to close men's health gap
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