GOING to the doctor usually evokes some level of anxiety for the majority of people.

Going to the doctor with an embarrassing problem however, can raise that level 10-fold.

While I get why this happens, I need you to know that there is nothing us doctors have never seen and that leaving something unmanaged can sometimes be the beginning of an unfavourable end.

Everyday, I hear at least one to two patients tell me how “sorry” they are to be coming in to talk to me about their bowels or how bad they feel that I have to examine, for example, their haemorrhoids (piles). People with issues affecting their sexual health or those who may have found a lump, rash or other change in an intimate area feel very self-conscious.

This is a normal feeling and we all experience this. The problem however arises when we magnify the situation in our minds, analyse it to conclude that it would be better to avoid seeing the doctor than go get it seen, hoping it will just go away.

Whilst some problems do just go away, other signs and symptoms can be early warning shots of something more sinister happening.

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I have, on several occasions, seen patients who have been so embarrassed about coming in to discuss their problem, face an examination or have been so worried that “it could be something serious,” that by the time they have presented, their worst fears have materialised. We need to put an end to this behaviour and belief system.

Common issues that men worry about but feel too embarrassed to seek help and advice about include erectile dysfunction (reduced sex drive, unable to get/keep an erection, premature ejaculation), urinary or prostate issues (passing too much urine, frequency, urgency, hesitance, dribbling after passing urine, night time symptoms), lumps or changes to the penis/testicles and changes in bowel habits.

Alongside these physical symptoms, men also tend to feel embarrassed or reluctant to seek help about their mental health. This can see them spiralling down the route of poorer health.

Women on the other hand commonly worry about being examined when it comes to breast changes, altered bowel habits, cervical smears or other vaginal examinations. Often the fear of “what if” also puts people off.

Doctors are trained to assess, diagnose and manage the problem before them. When a patient is speaking to me about their complaint, my mind is busy sifting through all the knowledge and experience I have compartmentalised about that particular body part.

When it comes to the examination too, I am trained – and remember we have done these examinations countless times – to see what is normal and what is abnormal to identify if disease is present and if further investigation is required.

Thoughts about how much or how little body hair one has, whether they have showered or not showered, whether they are wearing their pyjamas or a ballgown – simply don’t enter my mind. I am too consumed about what the diagnosis could be. This is my job.

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In a world saturated with fake news, with quacks and charlatans serving up pseudoscience to the masses for medical problems, people are increasingly getting sucked in. I recently had a patient who developed a funny looking rash on her breast. She was too worried about what it could be but was also too embarrassed about being examined.

She researched online and came across someone promising to heal breast rashes through “natural” remedies. With no examination and no face to face contact, this patient paid a lot of money and took these packets of “I don’t know what was in them.”

The rash cleared but two months later it reappeared. This time it was angrier and had a pain associated with it. When she came in to see me, it was clear what was going on. Thankfully with quick interventions, she was very

lucky and her breast cancer

has since been managed. This is just one of many stories but I do really worry what else is getting missed.

The earlier we can detect any abnormal changes, the quicker we can intervene and help resolve and prevent something more serious from developing.

It can be daunting seeing someone for an intimate issue. I really hate being a patient and currently every time I go to see my midwife and obstetrician, of course I have fleeting thoughts of, “I hope they don’t need to examine me today.”

As much as this is a natural response, it is not right to let these thoughts get in the way of my management.

Remember you have the right to ask for a male or female GP if that would ease the anxiety but do not delay getting your medical problem dealt with over material or aesthetic things. We don’t care about those, we care about you and your welfare.