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Men not talking about their health tied to greater risks

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — For men, being the strong silent type can be hazardous to their health. Doctors locally and nationally are hoping to save lives by starting more conversations. One family knows firsthand why that's so important.

Three generations of men in the Fisher family share tips on the tennis court and in life.

"Dad taught me that men don't cry," said Byron Fisher, age 80, who lives in Cottonwood Heights. He said his parents raised him to be strong.

His son, Peter Fisher, a urologist with St. Mark's Hospital, said that's true for most men, who are taught this: "To walk it off or rub some dirt on it if they get hurt or to toughen up."

"I think it's a little bit of pride too. I don't like to tell anybody I have a weakness," Byron Fisher said.

The Fishers recommend starting small. "Easy things. How much rest do you get? Are you wearing your seat belt? Don't smoke! Cut your hair," Peter Fisher said.

Humor is a big part of conversations in their family. Peter's sons, Tyler and Mitchell Fisher, said it's better when their dad's approach isn't so serious, especially when it comes to maturation and "the talk."

"When it's serious, you kind of want to get away from the situation," said Mitchell Fisher, age 16. "Like a turtle going into its shell," said 11-year-old Tyler Fisher.

A national survey found four out of five men have never spoken with a family member about sexual health. When they're young, ages 18-34, and more likely to be sexually active, men are way behind women. Young women are 90 percent more likely to talk about sexual health, cancer and mental illness.

Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt with Orlando Health said, "Women talk more with their family members. Women talk more with their husbands, while their husbands are just listening."

To change that, doctors with Orlando Health launched "Mission Manhood," a cross-country drive to demystify the topic. By making it fun and interesting in a cool car, they hope to get the message out.

"One common thing that we see is guys who show up with a testicular mass that's been there for years," said Dr. Sijo Parekattil with Orlando Health.

The Zero Prostate Cancer Run, a part of the campaign, is near to the Fishers' hearts. A regular blood test eight years ago showed something was wrong with Byron Fisher's prostate. At first, his son was hesitant to treat his father.

"He (Byron) said, 'Are you kidding? After I paid for your college for all those years? You're going to be the one that takes care of me,'" Peter Fisher said.

Peter Fisher cured his father's prostate cancer with radiation, and it inspired him to share this message: "Managing your health care is a strength. It is not a weakness."

Experts say men need to know their family history, risk factor and need to go for regular check-ups. Symptoms of major health issues can start small.

"Heart disease can show up with light shortness of breath or soreness in the shoulders, or tingling in the fingers," Peter Fisher said. "Men can ignore this for years and years."

The Fishers hope to change the conversation for the younger generation.

"Life is really good," Byron Fisher said.

And to keep it that way, they say men need to speak up and be open about health.


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Heather Simonsen


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