Not noticing many men around while you’re waiting to see your doctor? A new study suggests it’s because men simply aren’t making appointments. In the study conducted by CNN and Men’s Health, one third of men who were experiencing severe chest pains or shortness of breath still wouldn’t visit the doctor, reports ABC News. But your health should never take a backseat, especially if it means disease prevention. Read on to find out which medical tests every man should have.
High blood pressure can be a telltale sign of impending heart disease, which is why keeping a close eye on it is absolutely essential. Having your blood pressure checked by a physician should be a yearly event and “is so easy since there are no needles involved,” says Roger Blumenthal, M.D., spokesperson for the American Heart Association and Director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Blood fats and blood sugars can also serve as important indicators of heart disease. A fasting blood test can help determine if you have high cholesterol or might be at risk for diabetes. “Diabetes is a big risk factor for stroke and heart attack,” according to Dr. Blumenthal. A cholesterol profile will determine your levels of HDL, LDL and triglycerides, which will in turn determine your risk factor. “According to national guidelines, [men] should have a cholesterol profile done every five years beginning at 20.”
Waist size can also be an important indicator of heart disease. If you’re a size 40 or larger, you’re very susceptible to heart disease, as well as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and should get tested regularly for these conditions. “Fat cells in the stomach produce substances that tend to clog up arteries and cause blood clots,” explains Dr. Blumenthal. Blood clots can increase your chances for a stroke or heart attack, in addition to other medical complications in the kidneys and lungs.
Having your large colon and bowels examined endoscopically should be at the top of your to do list. This procedure is extremely effective in preventing colon cancer. According to gastroenterologist Mark Pochapin, M.D., chair of public and member outreach at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women. Those without any symptoms or family history should begin getting colonoscopies at 50, while those with a history should start undergoing this procedure up to 10 years younger.
“For average risk, a colonoscopy is only recommended once every 10 years,” said Dr. Pochapin. “If a polyp is found during the colonoscopy, we can remove it at that time and this will prevent the polyp from turning into cancer.” According to Dr. Pochapin, although colorectal cancer is deadly, the majority can be prevented by colonoscopies and early detection.
Although there is no standard exam performed by a physician to check for testicular cancer, Robert Smith, M.D., director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society stresses that men, young men in particular, should be aware that they are at risk for this type of cancer. “[Doctors] commonly observe men who have been experiencing symptoms for quite some time [without seeking medical attention],” says Dr. Smith. “This is often because they are unaware that their testicles could become malignant.”
Dr. Smith notes that men have many opportunities throughout the average day to recognize a change in their testicles. “Men should be aware of what they’re testicles feel like when they’re normal,” says Dr. Smith. “The difference often feels like a solid nodule. The testicles will feel much more firm and solid [if there’s a problem].” If a man notices this change, he should seek medical attention since treatment of testicular cancer “generally has a very good outcome, even when it spreads.”
Most men like to soak up the sun, whether it’s relaxing on the beach, tossing around a ball with friends or barbequing in the backyard, but outdoor activity comes with responsibility. Although he notes that susceptibility to skin cancer is dependent upon skin color and lifestyle, dermatologist David Orentreich, M.D., recommends receiving a full body dermatological exam once a year.
“If done correctly, self exams can be effective, but they’re never as effective as visiting a dermatologist,” says Dr. Orentreich. “[Dermatologists] have seen tens of thousands of growths on people’s skin. They can usually guess pretty accurately what [a lesion may mean].”
Dr. Orentreich notes that skin cancer detection is easier than screening for other types of cancers because “the skin is the only organ of the body that can be examined with the naked eye.” He stresses that people take advantage of screenings, as skin cancer can generally be detected and treated in its very early stages.
Rectal Exam and PSA Test
There is some controversy about testing for prostate cancer in the medical world, but “Most organizations recommended that men should have the opportunity to decide whether to get tested and talk about the possible benefits and harms of treating early prostate cancer,” according to Dr. Smith. He recommends that if a man has a family history of prostate cancer, he should begin having this conversation around 45.
Dr. Smith adds that treatment of early symptoms of prostate cancer can lead to incontinence and impotence.” He stresses that in terms of treatment, “A great deal depends on how old a man is. Most organizations recommend that if you don’t have a life expectancy of ten years or more, you shouldn’t consider testing. Even if you do get treated, it’s unlikely to benefit your health.”