These barriers can cause delays in diagnosis and treatment, with potentially deadly consequences. This is exemplified by the 5-year net survival rate of prostate cancer in England: when diagnosed at stage 1 or stage 2, the 5-year net survival rate is 100%; this drops slightly to 96% at stage 3, and then sharply to 49% at stage 4. People who receive a diagnosis at an earlier stage of the disease have a better prognosis. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this worse by reducing access to healthcare for non-COVID-related conditions, resulting in missed health checks, cancelled appointments and undiagnosed illnesses.
Shifting the male consciousness will not be easy, and will take time. I, myself, have repeatedly put off going to the doctor for several of the above-mentioned reasons: I’m too busy, it will get better on its own, it’s embarrassing.
How can we encourage men to prioritise their health?
This Men’s Health Week, we should focus on the short- and long-term solutions to fixing the relationship between men and accessing healthcare.
In the short term, we need to encourage men to go to see a doctor. By any means necessary. Friends, family and partners can help by being open to discussing health in a positive way, which can hopefully reduce the perceived stigma of men accessing healthcare.
Anyone who is putting off accessing care should be encouraged to prioritise their health. Attending a healthcare practice or clinic is both safe and confidential, and receiving a diagnosis for an ailment will not only allow for more timely treatment but will also reduce worry and stress about undiagnosed symptoms.