Sex Education for the Real World…

 


Why Do Black Men Hate the Doctor’s Office? | Awkward Questions.

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Posted March 6, 2015 by Kimani in Sex Health

A very close relative (who shall remain nameless for now) disclosed to me this past weekend that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was speechless to the point that I sat home alone – in silence, for over an hour. Too numb to cry and get hysterical, I felt compelled to write instead. Luckily for us, said loved one gets regular screenings and takes care of his health – so there is a 70% chance of full recovery after treatment.

Thank God.

Prostate Cancer Incidence Rates* by Race and Ethnicity, U.S., 1999–2011

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Statistically, Black men are 60% more likely than White men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and two times as likely to die from the disease.

Black men are often diagnosed at a younger age; typically by three years.

They are also more likely to have rapidly growing, “high grade” tumors.

Scary, right?

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As an Island girl growing up in both a Jamaican and Dominican household, I have watched the men in my life take ill and refuse/postpone seeing a doctor or getting treatment. It saddens me to know that so many males could have kept their lives and still been here with us had they taken control of their health. We have to wonder why this happens.

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Why Do Black Men Hate the Doctor’s Office?

As my father explains it, Black men have spent years with stigmas about doctor visits and being sick. It challenges one’s manhood if you’re sick – especially illnesses that affect your sex organs. A man will ignore symptoms of disease or sickness so that he can continue to care for his family, as if ignoring it makes it go away.

I polled a few men online to get candid responses to this question, and I was so appreciative of the answers I received. Take a look…

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“Doctors have been notorious for misdiagnosing men of color, especially Black men. After a while… some just say “what’s the point of going in the first place?”

Sadly, this is true in many instances. According to Cancer.org, “Even when information is shared, it may not be complete or accurate information – at least as it relates to black men. The overwhelming majority of published prostate cancer research studies include few (if any) black men as subjects.  This means that decisions on prostate cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment in black men is based largely on what is known about how the disease behaves in white men.”

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“I think the distrust of doctors by Black men is deep rooted in the fact that the medical professions once saw us as guinea pigs and subhuman. Then they ran perverse experiments on us as as a result, and now we wonder if we will be the latest in a long line who become just “statistics” and “subjects” rather than being cared for as humans…” 

This reference alludes to the Tusgegee Study, conducted back in the 1930’s. Hundreds of Black men were unknowingly subject to a study under the false pretense that they were being treated for their syphilis diseases. In fact, they were not receiving proper treatment and were being observed to see what the effects of the disease would be if left untreated. This study went on for forty years until the Associated Press broke the story and it went national. Those men were scarred for life – many of them died. The fear and stigma associated with that piece of Black American history lives on to this day.

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“From my point of view, the men in my life are all Island men and they associated doctor visits with weakness. There’s also a deep rooted homophobia that stops many men from getting prostate and colon exams – which leaves many susceptible to cancers and other disease…”

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Sadly, the stereotypes of the past haunt a lot of Black men. Hopefully opening these channels of conversation will lead them to greater understanding of their bodies and how they work. Whether you seek holistic alternatives or find a trusted conventional physician – it is crucial for men (and women) to take health as a priority on the inside and outside.

So, sound off – do you find this same issue in your family/household? What are your thoughts, suggestions?

References:

Cancer.org

CDC.gov – the Tuskegee Timeline




About the Author

Kimani

A NY transplant in Florida, Kimani has taken on the task of educating the world on sexual health and education. The Mount Vernon native has seen AIDS and HIV spread through her community like wildfire, and hopes to cease the transmission of these and other diseases one person at a time. If you know better, you're inclined to do better.

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