Screening Tests Every Man Should Consider

By Elmer Pineda, M.D., President, Medical Staff

Most of us know that routine physical exams are critical to maintaining good health. So, why are men less likely to get annual physicals and screening exams?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are 33 percent more likely than men to visit a doctor—even excluding pregnancy-related visits. The CDC also reported that women are twice as likely as men to complete doctor visits for such reasons as annual examinations and preventative services.

While men may play it tough and keep minor symptoms to themselves, it’s often small symptoms that lead to big issues. But how do you know when it’s time to get a checkup – and at what age should men start getting routine screenings for common health issues?

The Mayo Clinic suggests that men older than 50 should have a yearly physical exam, and men younger than age 50 should have a physical exam every three to five years. A regular checkup is always the ideal way to identify a health problem at an early phase—or simply validate your good health if you’re already feeling healthy.

Here are some recommended key men’s health screenings:

BLOOD PRESSURE

Controlling blood pressure can prevent serious organ damage such as heart disease, stroke and even death. Your blood pressure can be taken at all regular checkups. At any age, this screening is easy and reliable.

CHOLESTEROL
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that men age 35 and older have their cholesterol levels checked and should begin checking at age 20 if they are at risk for heart disease.

IMMUNIZATIONS
The latest Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for immunizations are as follows. For men over 50, a tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years as well as immunization for shingles (or Herpes Zoster). Once men reach age 65, a pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended. Annual flu shots are also advised. Adults 65 and over are at high-risk for developing flu-related complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.

DIABETES
Men who have high blood pressure or cholesterol should be screened for type 2 diabetes. The screening is simple, quick, and can be lifesaving.

SKIN CANCER
The American Academy of Dermatologists encourages everyone to regularly perform skin self-examinations looking for unusual spots on the skin, including those that are changing, itching or bleeding. If these are present, see your doctor. Individuals who are at increased risk for melanoma (a dangerous skin cancer especially if not found early)- including men over 50, those with fair skin or history of skin cancer- should talk with a dermatologist about how often they should be screened.

PROSTATE CANCER
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of death. Early diagnosis for those who are afflicted with this cancer is critical, but not everyone needs to be screened for this disease because of its overall slow-growing nature. The American Urologic Association (AUA) recommends having a discussion with your physician about prostate cancer screening- including a PSA level and digital rectal examination- between the ages of 55 to 69. For those at risk (e.g., African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer), the discussion should start at age 40 years. For men 70 or older, prostate cancer screening would be of benefit if they are healthy and have at least a 10-year life expectancy.

COLON CANCER
Newly released recommendations from the American Cancer Society state screenings for colon cancer should begin at age 45, rather than waiting until age 50. For those at high risk for colon cancer- such as a strong family history, personal history of certain types of polyps, or personal history of inflammatory bowel disease- screening should start earlier than 45 and be done more often. Regular colorectal cancer screenings should continue until the age of 75 if you are in good health with at least a 10-year life expectancy. The screening tests include those that are stool-based and those that are visual examinations (such as colonoscopy). Talk with your physician about the best options for you.

At PVHMC, we encourage all of our patients to stay up to date on their physicals, schedule an appointment with your health care provider today to discuss what screenings and exams are recommended for your health and wellness.

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