The internet has lots of anecdotes about men who don’t — or at one crucial juncture, didn’t — go see the doctor. Some are somewhat amusing, like a father who habitually asks his daughter if he can borrow her antibiotics. But most are terribly sad, like a friend mourning his mid-50s tennis partner, who had long complained about a mysterious back pain, only to eventually discover that he had Stage 4 colon cancer. His friend wrote on Twitter: “[It] had spread into his ribs, head, everywhere. He died very quickly.”
These stories, unfortunately, are all too common. According to a recent survey by the Cleveland Clinic, “physician-dodging” is a disturbing status quo for men between the ages of 35 and 54. Only 43% of that middle-aged cohort reported seeing their doctors for annual physicals. That percentage increases as men get older — when serious illnesses pretty much compel them to see a professional — but even then, it’s treated as a last resort, and many of the patients aren’t on their best behavior. In the study, 65% of respondents said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible. When they do go, over a quarter of them customarily withhold information from their doctors. Some even admitted to years of lying to their doctors, in fear of hearing a dreaded diagnosis.