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FEATURE Making health more


In a pharmacist’s day-to-day working life, one of the least commonly encountered groups of conditions are those categorised under “male health”.


n addition to this, these conditions are some of the least talked about conditions within general practice,

making their identification, diagnosis and treatment difficult, for obvious reasons.

An approach which may bring about the reversal of this trend, is the encouragement, by pharmacists, of men to speak up about health concerns at an early stage and seek help when they think they need it.

As a result, it is critical that pharmacists possess a wide range of knowledge of the conditions within this group, so that they can offer advice and treatment in addition to encouragement.

Why don’t men speak up about their health? It isn’t exactly groundbreaking journalism to tell you that, in general, men aren’t great at telling anyone if they’re feeling unwell – even healthcare professionals.

In fact, the problem is so great that male behavior with regard to their health is quite a large area of research, with academics seeking to understand both why men don’t like speaking about their health, and what can be done to improve this.

For example, in 2010, a UK-wide investigation found that women were more likely to say that they were ill compared to men. Importantly, the same study also found that these women were also less likely to die in the five years following their questioning (1)


This isn’t surprising, as the early detection and associated treatment of


various conditions will lead to an improved prognosis, and in the case of more severe conditions, an improved mortality rate.

If we factor in the propensity for men to suffer from a wide range of “severe” conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and certain cancers, it’s clear that an improvement in the facilitation of men to air their health concerns is urgently needed.

The big question is – why are men so bad at telling others when they’re feeling unwell? At present, and much like many aspects of human psychology, there is no clear answer to this.

However, research into this particular area has made a number of strongly supported suggestions, which are a good starting point for trying to improve these behaviours. With regards to the male thought process, it could be that some men see seeking help from a healthcare professional to be a sign of weakness, leading to the reduction in their self worth or machismo.

Another reason derived from this particular aspect is that men may be of the opinion that if they ignore a particular condition it will “eventually get better”. While in a general sense, this isn’t the best way for anyone to approach their health, such a thought process can also raise some other issues:

• Even if the condition were to “go away by itself”, the patient could have received treatment and advice that would have ameliorated the condition much more quickly than simply waiting for it to resolve itself;

• In the event that an ignored condition is serious or chronic in nature, it can often be more easily managed if it is reported early – waiting for a prolonged period of time may lead to an emphasised worsening of the condition, leading to complications for the patient and the health service.

Another issue that needs to be considered, as with the population in general, is straightforward ignorance of the health service and how it operates, which can also be related to the factors noted above.

For example, if a man consistently chooses to avoid seeking professional advice and let ailments “run their course”, the last time they may have been to a pharmacy or doctor’s surgery in any patient- professional capacity might have been when a parent brought them during their childhood!

As such, there may be an absence of knowledge about how to make an appointment at the GP, what to do when they get there, what to expect during a consultation, or may simply be unaware of the skills that a pharmacist or other professional may have which could assist them.

Prostatitis Chills

While these issues may seem inconsequential to some of us, they can act as a real barrier to some men, meaning that the health service is inaccessible to those who really need it.

Moreover, there may be practical issues such as working hours, which may keep men from seeking healthcare advice, or raising concerns about their wellbeing.

These problems then lead to a main question – what can we pharmacists do to change this culture for the better, and make seeking health advice a normal thing for all men?

Unfortunately, it would take all of the pages within this esteemed publication to scratch the surface of this issue in any depth; however, there are some main areas, that if done correctly, may act to improve the rates of men seeking help. In short, these include:

• Improved pharmacy outreach, making the general public aware of the services and advice that pharmacy can offer

• Signposting of other areas of help and advice for men and their health concerns (men’s clinics, charities related to various male diseases, etc.)

Table 1. Some of the common symptoms of conditions affecting the prostate (4) Condition

BPH Poor urine stream Fever

Pain in the lower back, Dribbling on genital area and penis

Body aches Symptom Painful ejaculation Nausea frequency

Increased urgency to urinate

Prostate Cancer Poor urine stream

Hesitancy on urination Hesitancy on urination Dribbling on

finishing urination Increased urinary

finishing urination Increased urinary


Increased urgency to urinate

A feeling of incomplete A feeling of incomplete emptying


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