Discovering a disease in the earliest stages can make a world of difference. It usually means having more treatment options and a better chance of surviving. Trouble is, many men tend to avoid going to the doctor. That's why you should encourage the men in your life to get regular checkups, including screenings for the following conditions:
1. Prostate Health
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. men. One out of seven men receive a prostate cancer diagnosis.
"There really aren't any warning signs of prostate cancer. It's a silent disease until it's very far advanced. That's why men should be screened for prostate cancer," advises James Siegert, DO, a urology specialist who chooses to practice at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields.
Starting at 45 years old, men should talk with their doctors about the risks and benefits of getting screened for prostate cancer. The screening includes a rectal exam to feel for prostate enlargement and nodules and a blood test, called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
"Prostate health is more than just cancer," add Dr. Siegert.
Watch our video for the top reasons to see a urologist:
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when the force of blood moving through your veins is greater than optimal. That's a problem because high blood pressure can damage artery walls over time and is the leading cause of stroke. Unfortunately, elevated blood pressure often goes undetected.
Nearly half of all Americans older than age 20 have chronic high blood pressure—130/80 mmHg or greater. Not eating salty foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and using medicine, if needed, can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease. Men ages 40 and older should get their blood pressure checked every year.
Diabetes, a serious condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, is increasing in the U.S. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, while another 86 million are on the cusp of being diagnosed with the disorder. (That's more than one in three adults!)
A simple blood test helps detect type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which can increase the risk for heart disease and other complications. It’s recommended for adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight. Men who are overweight, or have other risk factors, should have their blood sugar tested once every three years.
Men whose blood sugar has already started to rise should get tested once a year at their annual exam.
4. High Cholesterol
Most Americans have more cholesterol, a fat-like substance, in their blood than they should. High cholesterol levels put you at much greater risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Elevated cholesterol doesn't cause visible symptoms, so it's especially important to monitor levels. Men of all ages should have their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years through a routine blood test.
This simple blood test—after an overnight fast—measures levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides. These fats in your blood can affect your risk for heart disease and stroke.
5. Colon Cancer
Men are at a slightly higher risk of developing colon cancer (cancer of the large intestine, which is in the lower part of the digestive tract) than women. Most colon cancer begins as polyps, which are tiny, noncancerous pieces of tissue. Polyps don't produce symptoms, however, screening identifies polyps so they can be removed before they become cancerous.
Starting at 50 years old, men should have a colonoscopy to find polyps and screen for colon cancer. During a colonoscopy a tiny camera is inserted through the rectum to view the inside of the colon. During this test, the doctor will examine your colon, looking for signs of cancer and small growths that can become cancerous over time. These can be removed during the test. Experts recommend getting a colonoscopy starting at age 50. Men should get this procedure performed once every 10 years.
Hepatitis C silently causes liver damage over a period of 20 to 30 years, which can result in liver cancer. Men should ask their healthcare providers for a hepatitis C screening at their next annual exam.
7. Testicular Cancer
Doctors should check a man's testicles during an annual physical exam. However, it's recommended that men of all ages perform self-checks for testicular cancer by feeling for masses and looking for changes. This is similar to breast self-exams for women.
Sharing information about health screenings with men is important, says Dr. Siegert. For various reasons, men often resist going to the doctor. "Sometimes it takes a loved one's urging to get men to seek the medical care they need."