It’s hard enough to get a man to roll over on his side when he’s sleeping to stop his snoring. Now you’re asking a fully woke Black man to lie on his side while he’s conscious and allow somebody he doesn’t know to stick a finger up his butt for a prostate exam? Good luck with that one. We’re kings of the phrase “I’m aight” while the women in our lives are screaming, “Babe, why don’t you go get that checked out? It’s been three months now.” Men don’t like going to the doctor unless they absolutely have to. That dissonance gets especially greater when there are major checkups on the horizon such as prostate and colon cancer screenings.
I’m too busy to go
I’m afraid to find out what might be wrong
I don’t want to get uncomfortable body exams
Dr. Michele Reed is a board-certified family medicine physician who has done tremendous work surrounding the prevention of chronic diseases in the Black community. She provides insight into the top reasons why Black men don’t go to the doctor for major health screenings.
1. Stigma of Having a Disease
We would rather limp than get an ankle brace. Men don’t want to feel or appear weak in any capacity. The stigma of “having something” is often too great for our Black men who are constantly labeled in society already. In addition to being Black, male, this age, this weight, from this place, you now mean to tell me I have X, Y and Z conditions?
The pressure is too great for our Black men who would rather suffer in silence because of this stigma. Dr. Michele believes part of this stigma is affected by a level of shame in being diagnosed with a condition or disease. Without proper knowledge of the prevalence or nature of a condition, a man’s mind can go astray and believe that he’s done something terrible to cause his newfound condition. When in reality with proper knowledge and regular doctor visits men can understand the source of their diagnosis.
2. We Don’t Know Our Family History
Our bloodline is a gateway to the story of our health’s present and future. If your family has a history of high blood pressure it could help inform you on your next steps to either prevention or maintenance of this condition.
Dr. Reed recommends talking to your family once a year about their current and past medical history to get an overview of what’s going on. Awareness can provide you with some prevention strategies to extend your life.
3. Lack of Awareness
It’s one thing to go to the doctor, but it’s another to be completely knowledgeable about what your doctor said. Men are often passive participants once they hit the doctor’s office.
A brother can go to the doctor and still walk out clueless as to what happened during that visit. Men don’t know how real things can get until it’s too late, so it’s important to ask questions and understand completely why you’re there.
Here are Dr. Michele Reed’s tips to overcome these issues. Pass these on to the men in your care: