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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Don’t balls-up chance to address men’s health

WELSH rugby captain, Ryan Jones’ backing of the testicular cancer campaign is highly commendable and has the full support of BMA Cymru/Wales.

As the leading professional association for doctors, we’re not in the business of knocking attempts to raise awareness of such a serious condition – nor a Grand Slam winner, for that matter!

But, what it does highlight is the desperate need for decision makers to focus and develop specific policies that target men’s health.

For all the evidence shows that men are much more reluctant to admit to health problems than women. Men visit their family doctor less often than women and go to the pharmacist less. Just go into any GP's surgery or hospital ward and you will find it dominated by women. Then go to a Well Man clinic and you will probably find it empty.

All this might not matter, except for the fact that men are less healthier than women. Their life expectancy is less than women's and at every age up until 79 more men die than women.

A recent survey found that a third of men would risk their health by not going to the doctor's quickly enough. By contrast, women are more sophisticated in how they use health services because through necessities such as birth control, they familiarise themselves with the system earlier in life.

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if we can get men to see their GP sooner, then they can be treated more quickly and lives can be saved. Too often men present with symptoms late in the course of an illness.

That’s why at this year’s annual BMA meeting in Edinburgh doctors from across the UK and from all branches of medical practice expressed their concern over the late diagnosis of serious medical conditions as a result of men’s delayed presentation to health professionals and demanded greater research and action to address this issue.

This is where policy makers and the Welsh Assembly Government have a duty to act. Though they seem willing to tackle testicular cancer – and rightly so, they - like the men who don’t visit their GPs - are content to bury their heads in the sand to the bigger health picture.

And the danger? If we don’t do something soon then we could be guilty of one almighty balls-up!