The more I interview doctors and specialists for this blog, the more I notice that men do not have the same laser-sharp focus on their personal health as women seem to have. While women keep current on all their medical screenings, men find it hard to see the doctor, until they are doubled up in pain or frightened to death over a symptom.

A urologist who notices this is Dr. Edward Karpman, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of male sexual dysfunction. “It is true that women tend to be more proactive about their health care. They tend to see a doctor for their routine screenings, mammograms and tests…It’s hard to explain at a physiological or biochemical level.” Karpman says it may have something to do with our society and culture. “Guys have to appear resilient and indestructible. I think going to the doctor is almost an admission of some type of vulnerability in their armor…they don’t want to go see a doctor until it’s too late, until it hurts,” says Karpman.

The road seems especially tough for single men. In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Karpman believes female partners help men focus on health. “I think that’s really the reason why we see longer life spans in guys who are in relationships.” Many men see the doctor only after being told to do so by their partner.

Women can provide the careful nudge, convincing their hubbies, fathers or boyfriends to pay better attention to aches, pains, even subtle symptoms. Karpman says a survey of households in the Silicon Valley revealed that women (approximately 80 percent of the time) were the primary medical caretaker in the family. “I think it’s kind of an enigma as to why this happens. We can probably look at our society and culture and attribute some of this kind of behavior to the way we’re brought up,” says Karpman.

Foot dragging and a lack of knowledge can cause men to delay prostate screenings. “I think there is still a gap in knowledge about the prostate among the general population. Guys still refer to it as the prostrate,” says Karpman, adding that he’s surprised some guys still don’t know about PSA blood tests. “That tells me that our general knowledge about prostate health is not where it really should be.”

Men need to know that many diseases, in the early stages, show no symptoms. So it’s not a good idea to think you are free of illness, just because you feel healthy and strong. “The vast majority of medical problems only manifest themselves when it’s kind of at a critical point,” says Karpman, Medical Director of the Men’s Health Center at El Camino Hospital in Los Gatos, California. The idea behind cancer screening is to catch a cancer early, when there’s a much greater chance of cure.

Regardless of how good you feel, Karpman says “You’re not immune, you’re not invincible to disease. Get checked out.”

Visit Dr. Karpman at www.healthy-male.com

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