Male Bodies: Health, Culture, and Identity

Male Bodies: Health, Culture, and Identity

Male Bodies: Health, Culture, and Identity

Male Bodies: Health, Culture, and Identity

Excerpt

Consider the following two pieces of information about prostate cancer. First, a brief life history. Fraser was born in 1921 on a croft in Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland. A local woman assisted his mother in the birth, and when Fraser was born he weighed in at 9 pounds. A big boy, even by today’s standards. He had a sister, and when they were young their parents moved to Glasgow, in part to be sure that their children would have a good education. They did. Fraser eventually became a high school teacher. Both children were self-reliant, with a dry sense of humour — so dry that if you blinked, or were English, you would miss the joke. Physically, Fraser was 5 foot 5 inches tall, had broad shoulders, hands like shovels, a handshake that could crush hands; he was naturally strong right into his last year. He had never suffered from serious illness and was stoical about the odd broken bone. At the age of 70 he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer, and unexpectedly died shortly afterwards. It is possible that, like many men, he presented to the doctor when the condition was too far advanced. More likely he had a heart attack or stroke, since friends and family assumed he had such strength of body and mind that he would try to fight the cancer.

Second, according to the publication Cancer Registrations in Scotland: 1986–1995 (Information and Statistics Division (ISD) Scotland 1998a), cancer of the prostate was the third most frequent cancer to affect men in Scotland between 1986 and 1995. During this period the incidence of prostate cancer increased in Scotland by 48.8%. The disease is not very common before 50, but risk increases rapidly after that age. The ISD report states . . .

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