Studies show that women are three times more likely to visit their doctors for preventive care than men. When it comes to men being mindful of their own health, guys are often guilty of avoidance because they may feel embarrassed or less “manly” if something isn’t feeling or functioning quite right. That’s even more reason for men to see their doctor for regular checkups and routine screenings.
Blood pressure checks, plus blood work for cholesterol counts and glucose levels related to the possibility of diabetes, should be on the list. Ditto dental visits. The American Cancer Society now says that men (and women) of average risk* for colorectal cancer should begin screenings (stool-based, or visual, like colonoscopy) at age 45, not 50. But prostate and testicular health must also be monitored, because of cancer risk, and also because sexual function, fertility, and urinary health can be impacted:
The prostate is the walnut-sized organ that makes some of the fluid that makes up semen, located in front of the seminal vesicles below the bladder, and in front of the rectum. (The urethra, the tube that carries both urine and semen out of the body, goes through the prostate.) African-American men, or those with a family history of prostate cancer (with about six in 10 cases diagnosed at age 65 and older) are most at risk. While some recommend screenings at age 50 or over (depending on family history), every adult man should discuss their individual risks regarding prostate cancer, and the benefits of screening, with their doctor. If a prostate problem is suspected, a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, a biopsy to detect a potentially pre-cancerous condition, and other types of screening, can be next steps. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men next to skin cancer, yet most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. Prostate cancer is usually very treatable if caught early. More than 2.9 million in the U.S. are currently prostate cancer survivors.
The testicles (the two golf ball-sized organs within the scrotum just beneath the penis) are responsible for making male hormones (like testosterone), and sperm (to fertilize a female egg for pregnancy). About half of testicular cancer in men happens between age 20 and 34 (with about six percent in children and teens). Other risk factors can include having a family history of testicular cancer, having already had testicular cancer in one testicle, having an usually non-invasive germ cell cancer in the testicles (cancer in situ), being HIV-positive, being tall, white, or having an undescended testicle. Your doctor will manually check for testicular cancer, followed by a screening. Men should also do regular self-exams in the shower for lumps or anything unusual— and see their doctor. Only one of every 250 males will develop testicular cancer (it’s rare), and most times the disease can be treated successfully.
Guys, get on board with preventive doctor visits and screenings. Women, help nudge men in the right direction.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano
* Visit www.cancer.org for detailed colorectal screening information, and talk to your doctor about personal risk factors.