The Routine Screening Tests Essential to Men’s Health

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From colon and prostate cancer to heart disease, there are critical health concerns men need to take seriously even when they’re still young.

Zach Sussman, who’s 26, sees his doctor every year for a full physical. “I’m healthy but I know 50 years down the road I may not be and I want to be able to combat it,” Sussman told CBS News.

Dr. Steven Lamm, medical director at the Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, says men need to take charge of their health early on, and establish a relationship with a primary care doctor when they’re still young and healthy. Too often, young men who are healthy will shirk their annual physical or put it off for as long as possible.

“Unfortunately we know there is a higher risk of testicular cancer in your twenties and thirties,” said Lamm. While testicular cancer rates aren’t high overall, every man who pays an annual visit to their doctor should receive a testicular exam, which involves a doctor feeling for any usual lumps or bump in the testes. But medical imaging test aren’t necessary unless a patient reports a suspicious change or the physician feels something unusual.

At that checkup, the doctor can also take a patient’s baseline numbers for blood pressure and cholesterol, ensure immunizations are up-to-date, and determine which routine medical tests are necessary — and when.

“You need to personalize the testing based on the patient’s personal history, family history and their own concerns,” Lamm told CBS News. For example, a physician will ask if the patient is a current or former smoker and may order a lung cancer screening for patients over 50 with a history of cigarette use.

It’s important to pay close attention to baseline numbers to keep a close watch on cardiovascular health, since heart disease is the leading cause of death in U.S. men. Any annual wellness visit should include a measure of weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

“You really want to know that your blood pressure is normal, that your cholesterol is normal. If you are overweight establish a program for weight loss,” said Lamm.

A patient’s age often helps a doctor determine if it’s necessary to screen for certain diseases. For example, all men starting at age 50 should undergo screening for colorectal cancer.

Many patients worry about their prostate cancer risk, which is the most common cancer among men after skin cancer. But while a rectal exam to detect prostate abnormalities typically is a part of a man’s physical, the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is not recommended for routine prostate cancer screening. This is because patients who do not have prostate cancer may still have an elevated levels of this specific enzyme in the blood, leading to other invasive — and often unnecessary — tests. So doctors often are prudent when deciding which patients should have a PSA. However, some doctors recommend all male patients have a baseline PSA test at age 40.

Patients should become familiar with the screening guidelines from organizations such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, then discuss a screening plan with their doctor.

Blood pressure test: The AHA recommends patients have their blood pressure taken at least once each year starting at age 20.

Lipid panel: The AHA recommends testing cholesterol and triglycerides levels every 4 to 6 years.

Blood glucose tests: Screening for diabetes should occur at least every three years starting at age 45, according to AHA.

Colonoscopy: The USPSTF says most patients should begin colorectal cancer screening with a colonoscopy at age 50 and undergo the test every 10 years, usually until the age of 75. A doctor may determine that sigmoidoscopy and fecal blood testing is sufficient. The ACS outlines similar recommendations.

Prostate specific antigen test (PSA): The USPSTF recommends against routine screening for prostate cancer with PSA blood tests, due to the high rate of of false-positives. The ACS suggests a patient be given the option for PSA testingafter their doctor has provided thorough information about the risks and benefits of this test. Both the USPST and ACS say a digital-rectal exam should occur during a man’s yearly checkup.

Testicular exams: The USPSTF does not recommend routine testicular cancer screenings; however, the ACS recommends that testicular exams be incorporated into every male patient’s annual physical exam.

Source: CBS News

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