Health warning for men over 50

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News

A WIGAN health chief is warning men over the age of 50 to wise up to the symptoms of disease or face a premature death.

Dr Kate Ardern, Wigan’s director of public health, has reacted strongly to a survey carried out by Saga, which found that only 55 per cent of men knew the tell-tale signs of bowel cancer, compared to 72 per cent of women.

More than 11,000 UK men and women were asked about their knowledge of diseases and what makes them go to their GP.

Men whose partners or children put pressure on them to get a check-up were more likely to see a doctor.

From a survey of 11,729 men and women aged 50 and over, 41 per cent of men surveyed said they were unaware of the symptoms of prostate cancer.

Dr Ardern, said: “This is a complex issue involving a multitude of factors. Culture plays a part as, historically, women have played a greater role in the health of their families than men and health is a subject that often appears in media targeted at women.

“Men’s experience of health services as adults may be limited and, therefore, they will have gained little knowledge of health and disease.

“While men have higher rates of serious disease, particularly after the age of 40, due to their limited engagement with health services when they are young adults, they become less comfortable approaching their GP, or other health professionals, as they get older.

“Women, however, generally have more opportunities to engage with health services as young adults as a result of pregnancy and child care. We should remember that surveys are a snapshot and do not see the whole picture. There are a lot of men over 50 who do not fit these stereotypes, who are knowledgeable about health and symptoms of disease, who do take measures to improve their health, and who are comfortable engaging with health care services.

“However, GP practices and other health services, nationally as well as locally, do need to offer opportunities that reflect men’s interests and provide information in the manner that men may prefer.”

“Up until around five years ago the only universal cancer screening programmes were exclusively targeted at women (breast and cervical cancer screening). Only recently have bowel cancer screening and NHS Health Checks been implemented but the good news is the uptake of these has been similar for both men and women in Wigan Borough.

“Find and Treat Health Checks have been running throughout the borough since October 2007. GP practices have invited 41,167 patients aged 40-74 for their NHS Health Check. The male to female ratio is roughly 50:50, and everyone who attends is given advice on how to achieve a healthier lifestyle and where necessary referred on to local services.”

The survey found that men were most likely to go and see their GP when they found blood in their urine (82 per cent) or in their stool (78 per cent) and when they felt severe pain (74 per cent). These were all important triggers for women to see their doctor too.

But men (59 per cent) were much less likely than women (80 per cent) to go to the GP when they found a new lump in their body.

If men over 50 needed encouragement to see a medical professional, they were more likely than women to go for a check-up when faced with pressure from their partner or children.