Monday, November 8, 2010

Yes Virginia: It’s a Prostate Exam

A holiday season or so ago I was half listening to the television while stressing over my husband’s Christmas list. What do you get a guy who needs nothing and wants even less? I was still holding out hope for inspiration when an ad with a “merry” tone caught my attention. The ad sported an attractive woman, grinning and practically winking secrets at me. I leaned forward in anticipation: She claimed to have the perfect gift for any man. She then looked directly at me through the camera and said, “Get him an appointment for a prostate exam.”
Rewind. Play again.
“Get him an appointment for a prostate exam.” Yes. That is what she said.
Seriously and what the heck? For Christmas?
Cringing, I envisioned the reaction Christmas morning of men opening small holiday boxes only to find “Happy Prostate Exam” written on appointment cards. What a terrible marketing scheme, unless a pap smear actually made it to her Christmas list.
Nevertheless I started thinking. How many women really think about Men’s Health? How many women know the issues, pitfalls, concerns, drawbacks, and needed reform? Who of us knows hype from help, and why men really avoid healthcare? Although many women just do not talk about it, you and I are going to.
Recent studies have shown that 46-49 percent of males do not seek healthcare. We’ve all read it; we all know it. The simple truth is that this is a healthcare crisis and but for a few changes and choices these men might choose care. Frightening? Think of the top ten men in your life and consider that roughly half of them are not getting medical attention. Perhaps your man is one of the many not seeking care and you find this startling and unacceptable. But before you rush to the phone to make an appointment he will undoubtedly not keep, have you asked him ‘why’ he doesn’t go? Now be prepared because modesty just may be on his list.
*Let’s consider that: The safe feeling you get enveloped in the arms of mostly female staffers may well pose a humiliating problem for him. The ocean of females you encounter in just one visit may seem normal to you, but the intrusion of privacy and modesty may well be the barrier he faces to choosing care. Be willing to listen to his concerns without judgment. His anxiety and preferences are just as real as yours. (How many of you prefer a female OB-GYN?) Stand by his decisions to seek same gender care if it is his preference. Be as involved as you possibly can in the search for choices that he can accept. If it involves making a few phone calls then do it.
*Or: Suggest he make his own appointments. He will get a better idea of who and what to expect, and become more assertive about what he considers respectful and dignified care. Remember, even a male doctor may also mean a series of female techs and support staff.
*And together: Petition the medical community for options that would allow men the same vast choices as women. If we are talking about saving lives then don’t worry about saving face. Be bold. Support him. Stand up and be a Woman.
*Don’t forget: Talk to your female friends and gain support for men facing modesty issues. I’m sure he supports your healthcare preference. It’s extremely helpful to bring this issue up with friends who are caregivers. You will gain insight as to how they view this issue and whether they do/don’t want to change male circumstances.
*Down to Earth: Men aren’t really from Mars Ladies. Nor are they babies, children, or little boys. If they ask us to respect their bodies then that is what they deserve. No chastising, belittling, coercion or bullying. We all have issues that are at core…human.
*Intimacy: No one ever says this one out loud! Some men want to keep intimate exposure between only one woman (you) and them. It forms a bond and strengthens trust. What woman would not want that sort of value and respect placed within their relationship?
*As always: Emergencies happen. Know his preferences. Know his wishes in healthcare situations and don’t forget to tell him yours.
Couples need to be their own best advocates. No one knows your spouse/significant other better than you. No one cares as much and has a more personal stake in each other’s health and lives. Be a team. Be supportive. Show real support for each other’s health by showing real respect for each other’s needs.

© Suzy Furno-Maricle 2010