It is not uncommon to find in males an aversion to visiting the doctor. Picture: Pexels
It is not uncommon to find in males an aversion to visiting the doctor. Picture: Pexels

Why is coronavirus hitting men harder than women?

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Jun 10, 2020

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Being a male is riskier in the context of Covid-19. This biosocial factor is an interesting finding in an analysis of risk factors for severe disease.  

South African data in the same analysis suggests there are currently more male Covid-19 fatalities than female. This makes it more important than ever that men look after their health and seek assistance should they show any symptoms.

Dr Louis Boshoff, Medical Adviser at Sanlam, says a potential explanation may be linked to the theory that testosterone levels in men can facilitate coronavirus infections and increase the severity of symptoms, as has been the outcome results with male patients.

It is not uncommon to find in males an aversion to visit the doctor. A recent survey of men by Cleveland Clinic found that 65 percent of respondents say they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible. 

Psychiatrist Dr Ian Westmore says that many men have been culturally conditioned to take up the traditional "masculine" role, including being seen to be "emotionally stable and strong".  He notes that the process of seeking medical attention implies vulnerability and this is problematically seen to be in direct contrast to the above.

Dr Westmore says that the key to cutting through the "superhero syndrome" often affiliated with men’s reluctance to go to the doctor is to provide them with facts as men are typically fact and solution orientated. 

It is helpful to focus on the "greater good" that they will be serving for their families in receiving appropriate treatment should they be diagnosed, as well as the example they are setting for their children.

Now is the time to work through that and get help as soon as it is needed... Its critical men know what illnesses they’re most at risk of contracting so they can keep a lookout for symptoms. These include: 

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men. Although the disease is rare before age 50, your age, race, and family history may contribute to your risk of developing prostate cancer. 

Symptoms to look out for include blood found in urine or semen, frequent urination especially at night, difficulty starting and stopping urination, having a weak or interrupted urinary system and experiencing a painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation. 

Should you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor, who will do a blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA) which is a protein produced by prostate cells.  

Testicular cancer

Although rare compared to other cancers, this one of the most common in men between the ages of 15 to 35. The most common signs are swelling or a lump in a testicle that feels heavy, pain and discomfort or a dull ache in the testicles, or a sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum. 

The good news is that this form of cancer is very treatable with a favourable prognosis. Boshoff notes that self-examination should be done once a month, especially if you have a family history.

Skin cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, especially in sunny South Africa, with less than a third of melanomas first detected by doctors. If you notice any irregular shaped mole, a change in colour in moles or pigmented skin lesions, it is best you get it checked out by a doctor sooner than later.  

Colon cancer

Colon Cancer is considered the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer but is a treatable and preventable disease. Early detection through widely applied screening programmes is the most important factor in the recent decline of colorectal cancer in developed countries. 

A new study suggests that when it comes to colon cancer screening, an annual stool test may be as effective as a colonoscopy for people who don’t have risk factors for the disease.

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