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Men’s Health

Men’s Health: Screenings Can Help Prevent Negative Health Trends

With many diseases or illnesses, symptoms don’t occur until later stages – often when they create much more serious health issues and are more difficult to treat. That’s why it’s important to get regular screenings and physicals to catch chronic diseases before they occur.

A 2022 Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,000 men in the U.S. revealed that 55% of men say they don’t get regular health screenings. The National Library of Medicine research also suggests that men are less likely than women to go to a doctor for checkups, and are more likely to develop a chronic disease and illness.

“Men tend to do what I call ‘hide everything underneath the rug until something terrible happens’ but that's when they come in,” said Saju Mathew, M.D, a Piedmont primary care physician in Atlanta. “As a primary care doctor, I do see a lot of young patients so I use that opportunity to tell them when they come in for a sinus infection or maybe chest pain, this would be a good time to get things started.”

Men 50 and older should get a physically annually, and younger men every three to five years (or more), depending on your health history.

During these visits, doctors can check blood pressure, and perform blood sugar tests and cholesterol tests – all of which are important in preventing and identifying potential diseases or illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease – the top cause of death in men (and women).

“Patients should not have that misconception that if nothing is wrong, why am I going in for a physical?” Mathew said. “You're going in for a physical to make sure that you are not at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, etc. And the way we do that is to start off with measuring your height, your weight, your blood pressure, your pulse you can tell a lot from just a patient's vital signs.”

While various screenings are available for a variety of conditions or diseases, below are a few recommendations from the United States Preventative Services Task Force for men:

  • Lung cancer: Screening recommended annually for adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Screening for colorectal cancer: A colonoscopy is recommended for ages adults 45 to 75 years every 10 years. Doctors and patients may consider a variety of factors in deciding on other testing options and frequencies.
  • Prostate cancer screening: The USPSTF is currently in the process of updating its guidance; However, it is currently recommended that men aged 55 to 69 years old decide on undergoing periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening after discussing family history and risk factors with your doctor. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. A study published in April 2024 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that discussions about baseline PSA testing between Black men and their clinicians should begin in the early 40s, and its data indicates prostate cancer develops 3 to 9 years earlier in Black men compared with non-Black men.

Mathew said men often have anxiety and hesitance with some of these exams because of the physical nature, but wants to emphasize that there are often other testing options available.

“If your fear of coming into the doctor's office for prostate exams is that your doctor is going to do a rectal exam, at least let them check your blood because we can check the blood for your PSA,” he said. “And that is also the same thing I tell patients who are scared of colonoscopies. If your anxiety is keeping you away from the doctor, there are other options that we can discuss with you so that we still do some type of screening because some screening is better than no screening at all.”

Mathew also recommends annual mental health screenings, which can typically be initiated via questionnaires during a physical or doctors visit. Regular skin cancer exams and additional screenings may be recommended by physicians for various conditions based on certain risk factors, such as family history and lifestyle choices. Having a primary care provider can help you determine what screenings are best for your long-term health.

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