This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Derrick M. Lane

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.

A new national survey commissioned by Orlando Health found that nearly half (48%) of men made an excuse for NOT making their yearly doctor’s visits, with the top excuses being:

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

With the life expectancy of men being five years shorter than women, doctors are urging men to stop making excuses. The deaths of Phife DawgPM Dawn’s Prince BeDoug Banks and countless other Black men have led many to start rethinking their beliefs about going to the doctor.

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. Reed believes part of this stigma is affected by a level of shame in being diagnosed with a condition or disease. 

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:

Find a doctor you feel comfortable with.

Guys don’t like discussing anything that’s too personal. We’re not the emotional beings that will give you our whole life story. We get especially private when it comes to our health issues. Finding a physician that you feel comfortable speaking to about your concerns is one of the most important steps to developing a healthy lifestyle. Men, we have to let that guard down. Find a doctor that makes you feel at ease.

Hold community leaders accountable for speaking up.

Anybody who has a vested interest in the community and has power needs to speak up about the importance of health screenings. Dr. Reed speaks to church leaders all the time about how their voice has the potential to affect the outcomes of their congregations. She believes that if you can get them to tithe, fast and volunteer their time, they’ll also work out and treat their bodies as temples as well.

Stop being a guinea pig.

Dr. Reed says that oftentimes men are too passive when they go to the doctor. Men need to start asking questions about what’s exactly going on at every step of the process during their doctor visits. If you’re unsure of something have the doctor write it down for you. Stop them and ask for clarification if they’re going too fast or speaking in medically exclusive ways.

Make it a family affair

It’s a good idea to take a family member to the doctor with you. Dr. Reed says that bringing someone else to the table who loves you will bring out questions that you might not ask. You can’t rely on the medical summary to tell you everything!

Derrick M. Lane is a columnist for BlackDoctor.org, where this article was originally published.