Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Men Lie to their Doctors


I vividly remember the first time I lied to a Doctor.  Approximately 43 years ago, I was heading home from work. A woman who wasn’t paying attention crossed into my lane. I was traveling at approximately 45 miles per/hour. I was so close to her when crossed into my lane,  I had no time to step on my break. I crashed into her head on at full speed.

Cars didn't have seat belts in those days.  I had no clue how long it took for an ambulance to arrive because I was unconscious. When the paramedic arrived, I had idea what had happened or where I was. I was glad he arrived because I knew I needed help, but didn't know why.
Once I was in the hospital I’d learned that I was found hanging out of the ride side of the car. The side of my face hit the right side of the car with enough force to break my zygomatic arch  (my cheek bone) The ER Doc told me I’d need plastic surgery to repair it.

During my ER exam I was asked repeatedly if I lost consciousness. I was a very frightened teenager at the time. I knew I was facing surgery and I no idea what else they’d do to me if I told them the truth, so I lied. I told them I was awake the whole time until the ambulance arrived. The truth was I had no idea whether I'd been hanging out of my car for minutes or hours. I didn't even know I'd been involved in a car accident until they told me.

I paid a very high price for lying to my Doctors. When I was released from the hospital I went back to college. I had no memory of the courses I was enrolled in. I had to go to the Administrative office to get a copy of my schedule. I had no memory of what I'd been taught in any of my classes. I had to go back to page one in every one of my text books. I also discovered I didn't know my way around campus. I was totally lost. It was as though I'd never been to the campus. It was necessary for me to ask directions to get to every one of my classes. I frequently got lost because I had no memory of the layout of the campus. It was as though I'd never been there before.

 I never told anyone about my loss of memory. Decades later, when I was a Medical Social Worker in a Head Injury Unit,  I came to the understanding and realization that many of the problems I'd experienced immediately following the accident and for decades afterward was a direct result of the traumatic head injury I suffered as a teenager. I never received any treatment for my traumatic head injury because I lied to my Doctors. That was the first time I lied to my Doctors, Unfortunately, it wasn't the last.

Men frequently lie during their medical exams. They routinely lie about how much they drink, smoke, use drugs and exercise. Another way men lie is by omission. They will frequently “forget” to tell their Doctor about troubling symptoms. Men are much less likely to visit their Doctor’s than women. Based on my own experiences,I believe men want to tough it out.

Currently I’m experiencing moderate pain in one knee, and sometimes severe pain in the other. I have no plans to make an appointment with my Doctor. I live in a two-story house. When I’m unable to get up the stairs, that’s when I'll call for an appointment. Is my behavior logical or rational? No it isn't. Am I sticking with this plan? Yes I am.

Men’s resistance to seeing a Doctor can cost men their lives. Two stories come to my mind. One involves a man who sharpens my knives for my restaurants. One day he was experiencing chest pain. His wife told him he needed to go to an ER immediately. He told her he wasn't leaving the store. Fortunately for him, his wife immediately called 911. By making that call, she saved his life. He’d just had a moderately severe heart attack. He would have died in his store if his wife wasn't there to call an ambulance.

The other man wasn't as fortunate. My wife was attending a wedding. Her best friend’s father experienced chest pains. He told no one. Instead, he went to his car where he could be alone with his pain.  That's where they found him, dead in his car.

In both of these situations the men involved refused to seek out medical help. The only reason one of these men survived was that his wife was with him at the time of his medical emergency. She didn't give him the option to refuse medical attention.

Prostate cancer is a different type of disease. It can be silent and without symptoms for decades. Once symptoms appear, prostate cancer is usually outside of the prostate making a cure impossible. There’s only one way to get a jump on this disease and that’s through regular digital exams and PSA testing. We are approaching end of September which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.  Do yourself and those you love a favor. Suffer the humiliation and discomfort and get both a digital exam and a PSA.