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14 Essential Health Screenings That All Men Should Consider

Medically reviewed on Apr 06, 2017 by L. Anderson, PharmD

1. Hepatitis C Virus

If you are a baby-boomer, listen up. Those born between 1945 and 1965 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C virus (HCV). You should also be tested if you have ever injected drugs, or if you received a blood transfusion before 1992.

HCV is a bloodborne disease and a top cause of chronic liver disease, leading to possible liver cancer, liver transplant or death. To complicate matters, symptoms of HCV may not appear for 20 to 30 years after infection, so the disease may develop quietly for decades without your knowledge. Roughly 30 percent of those infected with HCV will eventually develop liver cirrhosis.

Curative, orally administered treatments are now available for HCV, so treatment is easier and a cure for most people is possible.

2. Blood Pressure

You should have your blood pressure checked every one to two years starting at age 18, depending upon if you take blood pressure medications or have other risks.

Your doctor may check your blood pressure more frequently, possibly every time you have an office visit. This is wise and should be expected, as high blood pressure can lead to some of the most difficult complications in health. Heart attack or heart failure, stroke, eye problems, metabolic syndrome, small vessel disease, problems with understanding or memory (cognition), and kidney disease are all by-products of high blood pressure.

3. Colorectal Cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy in adults, beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75. Risks and benefits of each method vary, and should be discussed with a healthcare provider. The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.

A colonoscopy looks for abnormal growths called polyps or areas of bleeding in your large intestine. Your doctor uses an instrument called a colonoscope to view the colon. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to start this test earlier than 50. A colonoscopy requires sedation, and you can go home the same day; however, you will need to take the day off from work. Laxative bowel preps are required prior to the colonoscopy to clear the bowel, and there are some that can be started early in the evening the night before, such as Suprep, so as to not interfere with a full day of work - ask your doctor about these.

4. Depression

If you find that you aren’t enjoying life as you used to - for example, you feel sad, hopeless, cry frequently, or don’t have any interest in social activities you used to enjoy, talk to your doctor. You can be screened for depression. Changes in your emotions are just as important, if not more so, than changes in your body.

Depression can interfere with your family life, work life and quality of life. Many effective methods of depression treatment - from talk therapy to novel medications - can help you overcome depression. Your family doctor may recommend a specialist, too, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, to really help pinpoint any issues and get you back to an enjoyable life.

5. Prediabetes and Diabetes

If you have heart problems like high blood pressure or carry a lot of excess weight, you should be screened for type 2 diabetes. Tests involve one or more blood sugar tests; your doctor will determine the best option.

The fact is that most people with prediabetes will develop full-blown diabetes within 10 years or sooner if action is not taken. Nearly 90% of people with prediabetes don't know they have it. So it makes good sense to talk to your doctor about testing for this dangerous condition. Left untreated, diabetes can damage your heart, eyes, feet, nervous system, and brain. Treatment usually consists of oral diabetes medications and possibly insulin. Plus, your doctor will offer suggestions on ways to reduce your risk of developing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.

6. Cholesterol Tests

Unfavorable blood cholesterol alterations, which can consist of elevations in LDL (“bad” cholesterol), reductions in HDL (“good” cholesterol), and elevations in triglycerides, can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends all people aged 20 or older, without any history of heart disease, get their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. People with certain risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a strong family history for high cholesterol, should get their levels checked more frequently and at a younger age. Screening involves a simple blood test. You may need to fast before this test for 8 to 12 hours, so if you can schedule it first thing in the morning that usually works best.

7. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

This is an easy, painless test and it might save your life. A ruptured abdominal aorta can result in fatal internal bleeding. For men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) with an ultrasound. If you have never smoked, your doctor will discuss if this test is needed.

During an ultrasound, you lie in a table and a technician slides some gel and a device over your stomach. A monitor shows the area, and the results will determine if there is a bulging in the aorta which might need repair.

8. HIV/AIDS

Although it may seem like it has fallen off the urgency radar, HIV is still an important health threat. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), those groups that should be screened for HIV include:

  • Everyone aged 15 to 65 years
  • Teens younger than age 15 and adults older than 65 at increased risk for HIV
  • All pregnant women, including women in labor who do not know their HIV status.

The test is simple - HIV is diagnosed by a regular blood test. The earlier you are diagnosed, the quicker you can start life-saving treatment. If you have high risk behavior, like unprotected sex or IV drug use, you may need to be tested more frequently. However, it’s best to learn to prevent HIV infection and avoid risky behavior. Advances in treatment allow many HIV patients to now live an average life expectancy.

9. Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in the U.S. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults aged 55 to 80 years who have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years, be screened for lung cancer each year. Screening is not recommended if a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that substantially limits life expectancy or the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery.

What is a pack-year? A person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Screening is done with a low-dose computed tomography (CT) test, an x-ray of the lungs. CT scans can be cost-effective and save lives if used in the right patient population and by skilled providers.

10. Obesity

Obesity is a national epidemic that can lead to many serious health risks, including heart disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems, and even cancer.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening all adults (18 years and older) for obesity. Doctors should offer or refer patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions; such as diet, exercise, behavioral modification, or possibly weight reduction surgery. BMI can be calculated here.

11. Immunizations

Consider having your primary family doctor review your immunization history. Here are some basics:

  • Get a flu shot every fall.
  • If you are 60 or older, get a shot to help prevent shingles, even if you have had shingles before.
  • If you are 65 or older and healthy, you will need protection against pneumonia. Currently this consists of a dose of PCV13 followed by a dose of PPSV23 at least a year later. If you have certain medical conditions or a weakened immune system, you will need vaccination earlier; however, the interval and the dosing schedule varies.
  • Every ten years, get a tetanus booster. If you have never had a dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough), or are unsure of your vaccination status, the CDC recommends you get one dose of Tdap as an adult or adolescent.
  • Several other vaccinations (such as MMR, chickenpox) are also recommended if you didn't receive them as a child, and others (such as hepatitis B, Hib) are recommended if you have certain medical conditions.
  • Vaccine recommendations can change, so ask your doctor if you need any. The CDC also has a list of all needed vaccines.

12. Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is by far the most frequent cancer among men in the U.S. However, screening for prostate cancer is controversial; the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against it. Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment, so the decision to move forward with screening should be an informed one.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk to their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer starting at age 50; or younger if African-American or a family history of prostate cancer. Screening may include a digital rectal exam (DRE) or the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

13. Testicular Cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently recommends against screening (Grade D) adolescent or adult men without symptoms for testicular cancer. The evidence suggests that screening will not offer meaningful health benefits, given the very low incidence and high cure rate of even advanced testicular cancer. According to USPSTF, regardless of disease stage, over 90% of all newly diagnosed cases of testicular cancer will be cured.

However, at least one study reports that self-examination may be cost-effective. Discuss screening for testicular cancer with your physician to gather more information for your specific health history.

14. Skin Cancer (Melanoma)

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 55. Overall, one in 33 men will develop melanoma in their lifetimes.

Although skin cancer screening recommendations are conflicting, some professional groups recommend a yearly head-to-toe skin cancer check with your dermatologist and monthly self-exams. However, the USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of visual skin examination by a clinician to screen for skin cancer in adults. If you have a strong history of skin cancer in your family, a suspected skin cancer, or a prior personal history of skin cancer, this should prompt a discussion with your doctor.

Finished: 14 Essential Health Screenings That All Men Should Consider

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Sources

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Published Recommendations. Colorectal cancer screening. 2016. Accessed 4/6/2017 at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/colorectal-cancer-screening2
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Library of Resources for Men’s Health. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/clinicians-providers/ehclibrary/men/index.html
  • How To Get Your Cholesterol Tested American Heart Association. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighCholesterol/How-To-Get-Your-Cholesterol-Tested_UCM_305595_Article.jsp#.V09ilJF96M8
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017 Recommended Immunizations for Adults: By Age. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule-easy-read.pdf
  • Intervals Between PCV13 and PPSV23 Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). September 4, 2015 / 64(34);944-947 Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6434a4.htm
  • American Cancer Society. Testing for Prostate Cancer. Accessed Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-024618.pdf
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics. Updated March 18, 2016. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts
  • Lung Cancer: Screening. USPSTF. Release Date: December 2013. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/lung-cancer-screening
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Screening. USPSTF. Release Date: June 2014. Accessed 4/6/2017 at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm-screening
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: Screening. USPSTF. Release Date: August 2013 Accessed 4/6/2017 at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Home/GetFileByID/265
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