Skip to Content


Father's Day Tips for Getting Your Man to Participate in Cancer Screening

Father's Day Tips for Getting Your Man to Participate in Cancer Screening
M. D. Anderson News Release 06/16/00

If you've had trouble getting the man in your life to see a doctor, you're not alone. Men are less likely than women to engage in many preventive health activities, such as wearing sunscreen and wearing seat belts, according to an expert from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"Give your special man a Father's Day present that could save his life," says Dr. Leslie R. Schover, associate professor of behavioral science.

"Schedule a cancer screening and early detection appointment, and include a reminder in his Father's Day card," she says. If he's a smoker, getting him involved in a tobacco cessation program can help him kick the habit and prevent cancer as well.

Men tend to be task-oriented, so providing specific information about screening benefits and giving them an active task to complete are the best bets for getting them into an exam room, Dr. Schover says.

Cultural barriers contribute to men's reluctance to participate in cancer screening and other health prevention behaviors, such as check-up exams, she says.

"Men in our culture are brought up with the male stereotype to be strong, uncomplaining and tough. For many men, a checkup is a sign of weakness," she says. "They may even wait until a health emergency to see a doctor."

Additionally, men do not receive messages to take care of themselves, Dr. Schover says.

"Women take care of men," Dr. Schover says. "Women persuade their husbands to go to the doctor, encourage them to eat healthier diets and give up unhealthy habits, such as heavy drinking."

The result is that single men are clearly more unhealthy than married men, but the reverse is sometimes true for women, she says. This gender-biased message differs for women, who society urges to stay healthyperhaps so they can care for everyone else in the family.

But married women often work outside the home, in addition to doing 75 percent or more household tasks, according to research. For this reason, women who have never marriedand don't carry the dual responsibilities of career professional and family caregiverare healthier than married women.

"Other reasons for men's reluctance to participate in cancer screening and early detection exams may include embarrassment or fear of physical discomfort," says Dr. Bernard Levin, M. D. Anderson's vice president for cancer prevention.

For example, screening for prostate cancer includes a blood test as well as a digital-rectal exam. Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, both colorectal cancer screening exams, require that a thin flexible tube be inserted in the rectum.

Some men believe an exam involving the rectum is shameful, Dr. Levin says. Additionally, men may worry that surgery for pelvic cancers, such as prostate or colorectal cancer, could lead to sexual dysfunction. But men often maintain normal sexual function following treatment for these cancers.

In Texas, 11,300 men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during 2000, according to the American Cancer Society, and 8,300 men and women are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Additionally, 3,400 Texans are expected to be diagnosed this year with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

To request a free brochure titled M. D. Anderson's Road Map to Cancer Prevention, or to schedule a cancer screening and early detection appointment at M. D. Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center, call 1-800-392-1611.


  • Give him a brochure explaining specific benefits of cancer screening examinations.
  • Help him actually make a doctor’s appointment.
  • Check out your insurance benefits, or take advantage of free cancer screenings.
  • Explain that you love him and need him to stay strong and healthy, not only for himself, but for the family.

(exams requiring a doctor's appointment)

  • Prostate exam: From age 50 - 70, prostate-specific antigen blood test, combined with digital-rectal examination. For African-Americans, begin at age 45.
  • Colorectal exam: Beginning at age 50, annual fecal occult blood test, combined with flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. Other options include colonoscopy every 10 years and double contrast barium enema every five to 10 years.
  • Skin exam: Beginning at age 18, look for a mole or freckle that has asymmetry, border irregularity, color that is not uniform and diameter larger than a pencil eraser.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center