A man’s body undergoes changes at every age and stage owing to a multitude of factors within and around him. No matter how strong or fit a man is, he needs to get some basic screening tests done from time to time.
Screening tests allow detection of some diseases common in men, at an early stage. This further paves way for timely treatment. Some diseases like colon cancer, vision loss, impotence, diabetes, etc; if detected in time can be managed very well.
Given below are some of the common tests recommended for men. Based on their age and risk factors around them men need to decide which screening they need to get done and when.
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): This test is done to screen healthy men for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer can either be slow growing or a very fast growing one. With the help of DRE, it is possible to even detect this cancer even when the symptoms have also not begun to show. Thus, allowing the treatments to be most effective.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test: This test is also performed for prostate cancer. It helps detect prostate cancer at an early stage using blood sample. It is important that men discuss having this test with their doctors and understand the limitations as well as scope of this test well.
Both the above tests should be taken depending upon individual risk and age. Below is a table showing the levels of risk and corresponding age at which men should begin these screenings.
|Average risk||50 years|
|High risk (African American males)||45 years|
|Highest risk (men with family history)||40 years|
Testicular Examination: This is a physical examination that helps your physician detect one of the most uncommon cancers in men-the testicular cancer. This cancer affects men usually between the ages of 20-54 and may cause pain or swelling in the testicles. Usually when the physician examines the testicles with cancer a lump can be detected. It is therefore, advised that men routinely go for such physical examinations as per their doctor’s suggestion and even learn the correct method of self examination for the same. Men with a family history, HIV or un-descended testes are more at risk for this type of cancer.
Colonoscopy: This is a test done to detect colorectal cancer or polyps. Colon cancer develops from colon polyps from the inner surface of the colon. However, they can spread to other parts of the body as well. It is therefore, important that periodic screening for colon polyps is done so as to get them removed before they turn cancerous
Colonoscopy is done using a flexible tube, which has a camera at its tip. It allows the doctor to view the entire colon from inside and even remove the polyps during that time. Some other similar tests for colon cancer detection are-
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: it examines the lower part of the colon only.
Virtual colonoscopy: a CT scan of the colon
Double contrast barium enema: which is like an X-ray of the colon
All these other tests allow only detection of polyps or cancer. Removal is possible through colonoscopy only. The screening age for this test is 50 years and above in case of men under average risk.
Screening for Skin Cancer: while it is advised by oncologists to perform skin self examinations at regular intervals to check any abnormal changes in skin texture, patchiness, marks or color; going to a dermatologist for skin cancer screening, even with the slightest inkling is not a bad idea; especially if you are in the risk group. Out of the various forms of skin cancer melanoma is the most dangerous. Also, melanoma is more prevalent in older men as they have had more exposure to the UV rays of the sun. Other risk factors include frequent sun-tanning, sunburns or use of tanning beds.
Screening for High Blood Pressure (BP) or hypertension: one must know that every BP machine used to measure your BP will give you two readings. The first one indicates the systolic pressure and the second one is the diastolic pressure. For your BP to be normal, the readings should be 120/80. At 140/90 you have high blood pressure and before that it’s the pre-hypertension phase.
Men need to go for regular BP checks after 40 if under average risk group. However, if under high risk groups you might need to begin these check-ups much earlier as advised by the doctor.Your risk of high BP increases with age; increase in weight and also, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle or are a smoker.
Fasting blood lipid panel test: this is a test done to detect the levels of total cholesterol in your blood in addition to information on LDL, which is the "bad" cholesterol; HDL, the "good" cholesterol and triglycerides. The results tell you and your doctor a lot about what you need to do to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
All men 20 years and older should get themselves screened for cholesterol. Men over 20 can get screened once in five years while those above 35 need a more frequent testing as suggested by the doctor. High levels of cholesterol put you at risk of heart ailments and heart attacks.