Nick Marantos, like most men might’ve been, was surprised when his doctor found a lump on his breast during a yearly physical. He was flabbergasted when his doctor said that it wasn’t there the year before. Marantos had been going to his doctor for physicals because of his high-blood pressure and other reasons, but never imagined this outcome.

“He saved me,” Marantos said of his doctor, Dr. Baker. Because when Marantos had a biopsy, it turned out that his lump was a carcinoma and Marantos was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I just had my mammogram,” Marantos said. “Most men wouldn’t understand that or even want to say the word mammogram,” he said.

Marantos has been cancer-free for four years now but still performs self-examinations.

“I preach to my daughter who is 46 and my son who is 44,” Marantos said. He is an advocate for self-examination to all of his male friends as well.

And it’s not just getting checked out for cancer. Chief of internal medicine at Kern Medical, Dr. Everardo Cobos said that it’s hard for men to come to the doctor’s office at all.

“In many instances, men are reluctant to come to the doctor,” Cobos said. “Many delay, procrastinate or ignore; it can be seen as an inconvenience.”

Colonoscopies are a somewhat scary procedure that Cobos said can be a matter of life or death. However, it is the major screening for colon cancer.

“I can’t tell you how many times it’s a problem to get them to do routine tests,” Cobos said. “I’ve had the spouse, girlfriend or relative say to me, ‘I had to force him to come here.’”

Cobos doesn’t blame it all on societal norms. He recognizes the physician’s role in public health and said it doesn’t take a lot for a physician to talk to a family member as there is always an opportunity for teaching moments.

“It’s a matter of education,” said Cobos. “As men, we’re taught ‘don’t complain, don’t cry,’ but going to the doctor isn’t showing any signs of weakness.”

Ultimately, it’s about getting the message across: getting men to go to regular checkups and do the necessary screening procedures when necessary.

Cobos said educating men and women differently when it comes to health practices is crucial.

“As men get older, the prostate enlarges and they can have problems urinating; it’s not uncommon but men don’t even talk about that amongst themselves,” Cobos said. It’s a lot more common for women to talk to each other about their exams, like mammograms or Pap tests.

A U.K. group known as the Lions Barber Collective combats the stigma of men not talking about their mental health, by actively having its barbers talk to their clients about this topic. Cobos mentioned this as a way to open up the dialogue on health alternative to physicians talking to patients.

Prostate exams and colonoscopies are the two major tests that Cobos said are usually obstacles in male patients.

“I suggested a colonoscopy to one of my patients and his facial reaction was almost comical as he kept saying ‘I’m not going.’ It’s like I was suggesting brain surgery,” Cobos said.

Marantos’ case is uncommon, but he said his doctor has helped him get through other ailments such as Valley fever by having yearly physicals. “Most people say they feel good but that’s the mental part,” Marantos said. “ You may feel good but you’re not.”

Putting yourself first can be a matter of life or death. “Take at least one day out of the year for yourself,” Cobos said. 

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