June 20, 2022

Men and health: 5 things they don't like to talk about

Some of the most common conditions in men carry a social stigma but are highly treatable when diagnosed early.

Despite some myths, men do care about their health. Culture, attitude, fear, and even pride sometimes keep them from talking about serious health issues.

Men's health risks can increase as they age, so learning about early warning signs of serious health conditions is vital since it could be lifesaving. It is important for men to learn and share information about 5 health conditions that men are commonly reluctant to discuss.

Prostate cancer

One in 8 men will face a prostate cancer diagnosis during their lifetime, and the majority are 65 and older. Men 50 and older should get prostate cancer screenings as part of their regular checkup. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should get screened starting at 45.

Some men may feel squeamish about aspects of these regular and important health screenings, such as a digital rectal exam. Most prostate cancer does not show any symptoms in its earliest stages, although some signs include problems urinating or blood in urine. 

Common treatments for prostate cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy — which carry possible side effects, including incontinence and impotence. Talk to your urologist for advice.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is the nation’s third-deadliest cancer in men and can also affect women. The good news is colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers when detected and treated early. If you are between 45 and 49, talk with your doctor or care team to request a FIT kit. Screening is recommended starting at age 45 for people at average risk. 

Most cases of colon cancer are due to the sporadic development of precancerous polyps that don’t cause symptoms for a long time. People with a family history of colon cancer are at increased risk.

Testicular cancer

The most common cancer in men 20 to 34 years old is testicular cancer. This cancer can affect children and older men as well. 

Unfortunately, social stigma is attached to testicular disease and can be a barrier to men discussing it. Self-examination is important as the first symptoms can include a lump or swelling in the scrotum that may or may not be painful. Other symptoms can also be present, such as a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen.

When found early and before it has spread, testicular cancer can be cured.


Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is often a major red flag for future cardiovascular disease — the leading cause of death in the United States. Because the arteries of the penis are so small, they can be the first to get atherosclerosis, or the clogging or narrowing of blood vessels. 

ED is especially prevalent in men over 40 and those with diabetes. If untreated, ED can cause loss of intimacy in a relationship and contribute to emotional distress. 

Consult your doctor if concerned about ED.

Breast cancer

Men can develop breast cancer just like women, but they are often embarrassed to discuss a lump or swelling on the breast with a friend or family member. 

Men with a family history of breast cancer, such as a mother or sister with the disease, are at increased risk. Common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or swelling under the arm, a rash around the nipple, nipple discharge, or pain in the nipple area. Men who have any of these symptoms should consult their doctor. 

If left untreated, breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

All in all, men should not let fear or embarrassment prevent them from discussing their health concerns with each other or their health care provider. Regular health maintenance and checkups are important for identifying problems early on before they develop into more serious problems.