Experts say many men view sickness as a vulnerability, the polar opposite of masculinity. "A physical problem changes a male's sense of self," says Pollack. Acknowledging a need to be protected alters a man's perception that he is the protector.
Women, in contrast, are much more likely to see the doctor because this decision does not affect who they are. Being cared for is viewed as "feminine," so it feels more acceptable. Furthermore, a woman's yearly gynecologic visit may have trained her to understand the importance of preventive health care.
Pollack suggests that physicians be sensitive to a male's need to feel strong and in control. The way a man feels after a visit with the doctor will often determine whether he will follow the advice his doctor gives. In the end, a doctor's attitude and approach is "a matter of life or death," says Pollack.
But experts say one approach to the problem is to appeal to the male's sense of honor and duty by helping family members concerned about him. A wife may try telling her husband, for instance, that she and the kids "love and need him around," making him feel he's seeing a doctor in order to fulfill a familial responsibility.
Avoiding the doctor means that many men miss out on catching problems that could be prevented with early intervention. So experts say don't wait until it's too late.
"Seeing your doctor regularly and screening for common diseases can give you the peace of mind that you're healthy, or worst-case scenario, that you will have the best odds of beating whatever you do have," says Johnson.
For more information on men's health, see Dr. Timothy Johnson's OnCall Guide to Men's Health, which provides men of all ages with guidelines for staying healthy and dealing effectively with medical concerns as they arise.