Two in five men in the UAE have never been for a general check-up with a doctor, a local health survey has revealed.
Research on 1,000 men and a survey evaluating the healthcare attitudes of 1,000 more men and women have exposed a worrying gender gap in a willingness to get a health check-up.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi commissioned the surveys as part of its 'MENtion It' health campaign in November.
Men from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds were asked questions to gauge a broad understanding of male attitudes towards health.
Results showed 40 per cent of men had never been to a doctor for a general check-up and 57 per cent of men would only visit a doctor if they thought they were seriously ill.
Of those, 23 per cent blamed a busy work life, while 21 per cent said they were scared of what doctors would find.
The survey showed 12 per cent were too embarrassed to visit a doctor, double the number of women who cited the same reason for not going for a heath check.
Dr Zaki Almallah, a urologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said ignoring early signs of illness could have serious results.
“We know men are reluctant to go to the doctor across different countries and this survey supports that,” he said.
“Women are more exposed to health checks, which takes away the fear factor for them at an early age.
“There is a male culture about not showing weakness or emotions, particularly in the Middle East.
“They do not like to admit there is something wrong.
“If I was to find a small tumour early enough it can be treated easily.
“If it is left, a more major surgery may be required and it could even be fatal.”
Of those men recently seen by a doctor, 66 per cent had their blood pressure checked, 50 per cent had cholesterol levels assessed and 59 per cent were monitored for blood sugar levels that could indicate diabetes.
Only one in four spoke with a doctor about their prostate gland, one of the more common areas susceptible to cancer in men older than 50.
Doctors recommend annual prostate checks once men turn 45.
Less than a quarter of men surveyed said they regularly checked themselves for suspicious lumps that could indicate testicular cancer.
“There are specific health issues that left undetected can become very serious, such as testicular lumps,” Dr Almallah said.
“This is especially true in young men between 18 and 35. Self-examination is crucial to encourage early detection.
“Blood in the urine could also be a sign of bladder cancer. A routine check-up can eliminate this as a possibility, or get treatment fast.
“A PSA blood test for prostate cancer is also very straight forward. Regular check-ups with a doctor can keep an eye on this.”
Of the western residents surveyed, 50 per cent had discussed prostate health with a doctor, compared with 30 per cent of Emiratis and only 23 per cent of men from Asian backgrounds.
The survey found younger men were more likely to ask for help or seek medical advice if they had health concerns.
“Men will only go to the doctor if there is a real need. It is the same in the UK,” said Dr Rahat Ghazanfar, a family doctor at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It can cause potential problems, even simple things like diabetes and high cholesterol.
“If they are spotted early enough they can be treated easily.
“If not there can be more serious consequences and a multitude of problems.”
Some companies provide health screenings as a benefit for their employees through their corporate wellness policies.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is currently expanding its partnerships with health insurers to give more people access to health checks covered by insurance.
“These are routine tests that men and women have done all the time,” Dr Ghazanfar said.
“We can fix almost everything, if is discovered early enough.
“If these checks were covered by health insurance it would help so many more people catch health problems early, reducing the need for long-term medication and other more invasive treatments and procedures.
“A one-off screening test is so much cheaper than a lifetime of medication.”