I can't get my husband to go and have a colonoscopy: gender and screening for colorectal cancer

Health (London). 2012 May;16(3):235-49. doi: 10.1177/1363459311403948. Epub 2011 May 20.


It is anticipated that a colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programme will be introduced in New Zealand making it the first screening programme in this country to include both males and females. In-depth interviews were carried out with 80 participants (53 females and 27 males) about their knowledge and attitudes to screening programmes in general, as well as their understanding and perceptions of CRC screening in particular. The study highlighted the perceived marginalization of men's health with a sense that women had advocated for, and therefore monopolized, screening while men's health had been left unattended. There were also perceptions of women's responsibility for ensuring men's access to health services. There are arguments that such perceptions disempower or 'infantalize' men which have no long term benefits. While health is perceived as being a feminine matter, it may be difficult to encourage men to engage in preventative behaviours, such as taking up the offer of screening. This article also highlights the heterogeneity of men, where different performances of masculinities were presented. A stereotypical 'staunch' or 'macho image' discourse was evident in some of the interviews where much emphasis was on maintaining and controlling bodily boundaries. Letting the barrier of embodied 'staunchness' down to access health services is a threat to identity. What is required for successful implementation of the CRC screening programme is a normalization of men's health help-seeking, taking into account the fact that men are not homogenous. Studies in relation to men's health need to attend to cultural diversity which is likely to present a challenge to individualism. Critical studies of men would be enhanced by more engagement with the work of black male scholars.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / psychology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Men's Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Sex Factors