Certain health conditions are generally thought of as ‘women’s problems’, but it might surprise you to know that they can affect men too.

Although just 1% of breast cancer patients in southern Africa are men, the dangers are severe for those who are slow to react to its development. An added problem is that many men believe that breast cancer cannot affect them. The fact is that male breast cancer sufferers generally do not survive as long as female patients, because men often ignore the symptoms until it is too late.

Be on the lookout for lumps in the breast tissue, fluid discharge and red or scaly skin around the nipple. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms, as the earlier breast cancer is treated, the better your chances of recovery will be.

Because women are between five to eight times more likely to be affected by thyroid problems, they often go undiagnosed in men. The thyroid is a small gland beneath the Adam’s apple that produces hormones that perform vital bodily functions such as controlling metabolism.

If your skin is dry and your hair unusually coarse and brittle, and if you are suffering from tiredness, weight loss, forgetfulness and mild disorientation, you could be suffering from hyperthyroidism (your thyroid is producing excess hormones). Alternatively, if you are experiencing sudden weight gain, irritability, tiredness in your muscles and difficulty sleeping, then hypothyroidism (your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones) could be the problem.

Untreated thyroid problems can lead to heart problems, infertility and mental health issues, so do get yourself checked if you suspect anything is wrong. Both conditions are easily treated once they’ve been diagnosed.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, depression is at an all-time high among South African men. The World Health Organisation claims that 10% of non-natural adult deaths in South Africa in 2017 were suicides.

In some cultures, it is felt that men should be ‘strong’ and mental problems are stigmatised as a sign of weakness, but the truth is that it is no ‘weaker’ to have mental health issues than it is to have diabetes or a heart condition. In fact, the manly thing to do is to acknowledge any problem and seek help for it!

Experts throughout southern Africa urge men to seek help if they are feeling depressed. In the words of the Men’s Foundation of South Africa, ‘It is okay not to be okay’ – it’s important to remember that your mental health needs as much of your care and attention as your sense of physical wellbeing.

If you know someone who might be depressed, encourage them to speak to a professional. Your intervention could make all the difference.

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to lose density (mass), which increases the risk of fractures and breaks. One in three women is at risk of developing it, but as contemporary men are living longer than men of previous generations, their risk factor has increased to one in five.

Not only this, but a recent study conducted by the International Osteoporosis Foundation and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of SA found that 92% of older men underestimate or are unaware of the dangers posed by osteoporotic fractures, which can be very slow to heal.

Ask your doctor about a bone density test if you think you might be at risk. Various treatments are available.

In a study published in the South African Journal of Psychology, researchers found that South African men who battle eating disorders face a ‘double stigma’, and even medical professionals do not always treat their complaints with the appropriate degree of seriousness.

This is because, from the global perspective, the majority of patients who are diagnosed with eating disorders are women from Western countries. However, eating disorders – which can range from anorexia nervosa (starving yourself) to over-eating during times of stress – can affect anyone, and lead to serious health problems like heart disease and permanent kidney damage. Don’t be afraid to seek help.

Text David Cornwell



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