Q&A: Pharmacists Can Play a Key Role in Supporting Men’s Health

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Patrick Alonso, PharmD, CPh, owner and manager of Your Tampa Health Care Advocates, talks about how to build trust with male patients, what health screenings men should be getting, and how pharmacists can help support men’s mental health.

It is well established that men generally can be unenthusiastic about going to see their health care provider. Around 50% of men don’t consider getting their annual check-up a regular part of taking care of themselves and even when they do go to see their doctor, 20% of men admit that they are not always completely honest with them.1 Considering the fact men are more likely to die from certain conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease compared to women, talking to men about the importance of regular check-ups is of critical public health importance.2,3

Q&A: Pharmacists Can Play a Key Role in Supporting Men’s Health / LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe.com

Q&A: Pharmacists Can Play a Key Role in Supporting Men’s Health / LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe.com

In an interview for men’s health month, Drug Topics sat down with Patrick Alonso, PharmD, CPh, owner and manager of Your Tampa Health Care Advocates and a co-host of the Men’s Health Unscripted podcast, to discuss how providers can build trust with male patients, what health screenings men should be getting at different ages, and how pharmacists can help support men’s mental health.

READ MORE: Patient Trust, Active Listening Key to Enhancing Men's Health Care

Drug Topics: How do you build trust with male patients who might be hesitant to seek advice or discuss sensitive health issues?

Patrick Alonso, PharmD, CPh: That's a great question. I think the first thing that is really important to establish with male patients is to listen. Nobody really likes being told what to do, especially guys. I think the old paternal way of thinking in medicine of finger pointing and saying, “You have to do this and this and this” has kind of gone out of the way. What we've really started to see, or I've noticed, especially with my 1-on-1 patients, is that if you allow them to talk and figure out what things are maybe going wrong in their life, whether it be health or mental health, they really start to open up a little bit more.

So, the main thing is listening and waiting for them to explain what's going on. It's tough for men to just come right out and say, “Hey, I'm having this problem.” So sometimes it just takes a little bit of time and really just building trust and letting them know that you're there for them and that you're working for them; that you're not exactly there to just tell them what to do.

Drug Topics: How often should men visit their healthcare provider for routine checkups and screenings, and what specific screenings are essential?

Alonso: That's variable. We can take the average 20s to 30s perceivably healthy man, they should be getting blood work and visiting their provider at least once a year. Then as far as the screenings go, that is variable just based on the age. I'll start with the youngest age, and I'll work up.

The youngest would be screening for testicular cancer. That is most prominent in ages 18 to 35, it goes up to 40, 45, but generally after 35 the risk kind of tapers off. So that's a screening that you can do on your own. The Testicular Cancer Society, who we have a great relationship with, recommends at least once a month. When you're in the shower, just kind of give yourself a feel of the testicles. Make sure there’s no lumps, bumps, things like that, nothing unusual.

As we progress, we think prostate cancer is kind of an old man's disease, not necessarily more of a middle age and up type disease. Anybody of African descent or with a prior family history of prostate cancer, it's best to be screened around age 40, and then if not, if those risk factors aren't present, we can start the screening around 50. As far as colorectal cancer goes, kind of the same age range. Around 40, 45 and up, we can start getting those screenings.

And then generally, after 70, you don't really go for screenings anymore, just because the risk kind of tapers off. Also, the internal organs and things become a little more sensitive and it's actually more of a risk going in for a colonoscopy and things like that. So, at various ages, guys should be screening some of these things. They can screen for themselves, like skin cancer and melanoma, you just look on your body or have a friend or something [check out your back] Those are kind of the best practices but at least going once a year as we age, maybe twice a year.

Drug Topics: How can pharmacists support men dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety?

Alonso: We've been in the men's health space for about 7 years. In 2022 we saw a real shift and I think it's probably post Covid-19 that guys started to take this a little bit more serious in regard to their mental health. As far as a pharmacist being able to support them, there's a few different ways. Pharmacists can educate men on potential nutrient deficiencies. When we're talking about that, a lot of depression and anxiety has been linked to a lack of folate in the diet. So, that's something that you can just fix with OTC; buy some folic acid or methyl folate, or whatever kind of works for you. That's a pretty easy fix.

As far as maybe going to see a healthcare provider and getting on some mental health medications, pharmacists can definitely support them in the sense that we can provide side effect profiles, we can alert them as to what to look for if something's going wrong, and then also let them know the timeframes that they should be seeing a difference from the medications and when they'll be working. Generally, when you initiate a medication, you'll see in about 2 weeks, you might feel a little bit different. In 4 to 6 weeks, and this is very general as far as medications go, is when you'll see the full effect. So, just being transparent with the guys about timeframes for medication side effect profiles and then some nutrient depletion issues that might have concurrent mental health issues associated.

READ MORE: Men's Health Month Resource Center

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References
1. Cleveland Clinic Survey: Men will do Almost Anything to Avoid Going to the Doctor. News Release. Cleveland Clinic. September 4, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2024. https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2019/09/04/cleveland-clinic-survey-men-will-do-almost-anything-to-avoid-going-to-the-doctor
2. Kim HI, Lim H, Moon A. Sex Differences in Cancer: Epidemiology, Genetics and Therapy. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2018 Jul 1;26(4):335-342. doi: 10.4062/biomolther.2018.103. PMID: 29949843; PMCID: PMC6029678.
3. Improving Men’s Health. News Release. USA Gov. May 23, 2024. Accessed June 12, 2024. https://www.usa.gov/features/improving-mens-health
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