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How to talk to your doctor about awkward men’s health issues

Ali Dabaja, M.D.
for Henry Ford Health Systems
Tackling men’s health questions head-on can help you address problems before they spin out of control.

Talking about sensitive topics doesn’t come easily to every guy. When the conversation centers on health — especially when chatting with a doctor — many men become even more reluctant to speak up.

Tackling men’s health questions head-on can help you address problems before they spin out of control. Nonetheless, guys frequently don’t address a variety of common health issues. The top under-discussed men’s health concerns?

How to open up to your doctor

Of course, discussing issues like erectile dysfunction, hair loss or feelings of anxiety can be difficult. The alternatives, though — ongoing pain, an unsatisfying sex life, a drop in confidence — are worse. Learning to express concerns and ask questions about your health are the first steps toward finding solutions.

Ali Dabaja, M.D.

Here are six simple strategies for opening up to your doctor about men’s health problems: 

1. Partner with your doctor: View your doctor as an ally in your quest to get to the bottom of what ails you, not someone who will judge you for. If you can’t connect with your doctor — or if you’re not willing to open up — it will be much more difficult to get help for your problem.

2. Research the topic: Not only will you learn enough to help you formulate the best questions for your physician, you’ll also quickly discover that you’re not alone. Anything you’re worried about sharing, doctors have heard before.

3. Write down your questions: Plan your questions in advance of your appointment. Jot a note in your smartphone or write your questions on a piece of paper. Then you can just read them aloud when you see the doctor rather than thinking about them in the moment, and won’t forget to mention any details or questions you want to ask.

4. Get specific and speak openly: Don’t be ashamed to tell your doctor you’re nervous before launching into specifics about your condition. He or she may be able to help you break the ice in terms of discussing your concerns. Make sure you explain what you’re experiencing in your own words and be specific about your symptoms. When the doctor is explaining things to you, ask questions, pay attention and if what you’re hearing doesn’t make sense, ask your doctor to explain unfamiliar terms, or draw pictures to help you understand the anatomy or to show you the X-ray images.

5. Bring in a supportive person: Tackling sensitive topics is easier when you have support. Bring your spouse or partner, a sibling or a trusted friend to an appointment if it helps. Sometimes people close to us notice things we don’t. In addition, a second set of ears can be helpful when your doctor explains potential causes of and solutions to your symptoms.

6. Don’t suffer in silence: Sadly, it’s not uncommon for men to let health problems go undiscussed. Truth is, silence doesn’t allow an opportunity for anyone to help. No matter what your health dilemma, chances are good your doctor can provide assistance. In nearly every case, the sooner you get help for sensitive health issues, the better equipped you’ll be to address them.

Getting back to basics

Sometimes, simply getting to the doctor can be a challenge. Maybe you’re busy at work and don’t want to request time off. Maybe you’re afraid of what your doctor will tell you. Or maybe just the thought of cancer, diabetes or other chronic diseases makes you put off screenings.

Just remember that any health issue you have is best addressed shortly after the onset of symptoms. Talk to your doctor about any changes in your health, including your level of stress and anxiety. Be honest about sexual problems. And don’t be ashamed to discuss things like hair loss, weight gain or depression.

These are common problems, especially as men reach middle age and beyond.

Still nervous? Keep in mind that navigating an uncomfortable conversation and getting a physical exam is less bothersome than letting an important health issue go undiagnosed. When you’re upfront with your doc, you’re more likely to sidestep bigger health problems.

Dr. Ali Dabaja is urologist specializing in men’s health, reproductive medicine and transgender health at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn and Sterling Heights.

To find a doctor or therapist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

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