Men’s Health Q & A
Men’s Health Q & A with:
- Joerg Meyer, Consultant of Urology, King’s College Hospital London, Medical & Surgical Centre, Abu Dhabi
- Dr Mark Homolka, Family Medicine Specialist, King’s College Hospital London, Medical & Surgical Centre, Abu Dhabi
Q1. Based on your experience as medical specialists dealing with men’s health, are men observant or taking responsibility over their health? If so, how? If not, what is your take on this and why does this situation occur or happen?
Unfortunately, men are often not observant about their health and perhaps take less responsibility. This occurs for many reasons, and one key factor is that men tend to not have to engage with health professionals in early adult life compared to women of child bearing age who require maternity care. They also tend to regard symptoms as trivial, which they anticipate will be transient in nature, and therefore do not arrange a consultation. Often, we have seen that men are not aware of the importance of some symptoms, and out of embarrassment or desire to appear more masculine, they are unwilling to discuss or share concerns with friends, peers and doctors.
Whilst traditionally men have not been known to take responsibility for their health for a variety of factors, I’ve seen positive signs that they are increasingly taking more responsibility for their health due to greater general health awareness and media advertising campaigns for lung, colon and prostate cancer, diabetes and dementia.
Over the years, we’ve seen men become more aware of their health and take more and more responsibility. This is a result of increased and improved education and awareness, for example, around prostate cancer.
Q2. What are the top 5 diseases of men in the global level/Middle East and North Africa level/UAE level in the last 3 to 5 years? Why so?
This is difficult to answer, as depending on the age group, there are significant differences in disease patterns observed in men and women. The disease profile is similar across markets in the region. However, we are also seeing that the UAE, like other GCC countries, is catching up with western trends, if not progressing further to some degree. Cardiovascular disease and cancer—especially lung, colon and prostate cancers—are the most common for men, followed by diabetes.
The above-mentioned diseases are in part correlated with lifestyle, and are therefore preventable to an extent. Awareness of the importance of a good diet and regular exercise, in addition to the detrimental effects of smoking, would go a long way in reducing the risks of these diseases.
Cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, has a high incidence in the region, followed by diabetes mellitus, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer, of which 80% is caused by smoking.
Particularly for the Middle East, the Westernisation of the local diet and increase in sedentary lifestyles are top risk factors for the above health conditions.
Q3. What are the top 5 health concerns of men when they seek medical advice?
Men often seek medical advice for symptoms of chest pains, or concerns about elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, or the possibility of cancer.
Because prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men on a global scale, this is one of the top 5 concerns of men in the region. Men usually start prostate screening at the age of 50.
Q4. Do they seek medical advice at the onset of any sign and symptom of diseases or at the latter stage?
Men tend to seek medical consultation late rather than early. I believe that public education campaigns are critical to raising awareness of symptoms and the key driver behind early diagnosis. In recent years, we have had campaigns for bowel and testicular cancer, which we believe have led to increased awareness and disease prevention.
Predominantly male patients tend to seek help in the later disease stages, as early warning signs are often ignored.
From my experience, they mostly seek advice before the onset of symptoms.
Q5. How do men deal with their diseases and health concerns?
As mentioned, men don’t always engage with doctors at the onset of symptoms. It is important for men to feel they can have an open discussion about any health concerns with their peers, but most importantly with their doctors. Talking about symptoms is useful as it helps them to think about their current state of health and better understand their body. However, that does not mean that men, or anyone regardless of gender, should self-diagnose. It’s crucial men and women seek the advice of a Family Medicine Consultant early on.
Self-diagnosing has become a trend for both genders. It’s the “Dr Google syndrome”, where men screen their symptoms and make a diagnosis, despite not being qualified to do so. Research shows that 72% of people self-diagnose, yet the chances of getting the diagnosis right are fairly low. Self-diagnosing isn’t recommended, and this is why King’s emphasises the importance of getting diagnosed by a Family Medicine Consultant. Patients forget that Family Medicine Consultants are the most qualified clinicians within a clinical setting, fit to triage patients. They are qualified to diagnose all diseases and provide comprehensive care for all patients of all ages and for the majority of diseases. If the patient needs specialised care, they will also know to whom to refer the patient. Contrary to what men may think, the Family Medicine Consultant is a patient’s health champion.
Whilst men in this part of the world may not yet be fully onboard with the idea of visiting a Family Medicine Consultant, they are becoming more proactive. They are increasingly taking advantage of “well-man screenings”, which are often encouraged by their employers and insurance companies.
The way men deal with their health concerns depends highly on their level of education and awareness, as well as their religious and cultural background. Some men try to hide their problem, whilst others are very open-minded.
Q6. Do they consult doctors by themselves or with their wife/girlfriend/family member(s)?
It’s generally positive to have a support system, whether it’s a wife, a friend or another family member. Sometimes it’s the people in their support system that encourage them to go for an early consultation; for example, they are prompted by worried family members. I have seen many patients come for consultations with others for comfort. That support system can also help them become more involved in their health.
However, the most important thing is to visit a doctor as early as possible. Some men I have seen unfortunately did have a cancer diagnosis and would have benefited from early treatment.
Generally, men will consult on their own, but usually after being pressured to do so by their partners.
I have equally seen male patients that come alone, as well as men that come with a family member. Compared to Europe, however, in this part of the world more men come with their wife or other family members.
Q7. Why did you decide to specialise in Men’s Health?
The main reason that drove me to become a Urologist is that during my training one had to choose an area of sub-specialty. Urology interested me most, as it comprises various conditions (which occur in both men and women) and patients from different age groups.
It is an integral part of the Family Medicine specialty, and as a male doctor, I will naturally receive more patients in this category as they may find it easier to discuss various issues with me than with a female doctor (and the reverse applies for Women’s Health and female patients).