Man Up and Wise Up: Why Men Should Visit the Doctor
We know you don’t like going to the doctor, let alone getting tests or exams. But with age it’s worthwhile to heed the advice of experts and stay on top of your health with these common tests. These recommendations come from the Men's Health Network, a nonprofit educational organization made up of physicians, researchers, public health workers, and other health professionals. Remember these are general guidelines; be sure to check with your physician for the specific screenings that are right for you.
Every year, men aged 20 and older should have blood pressure tests and rectal exams for hemorrhoids, problems of the lower rectum, and colon and prostate cancer. Men should also have a tuberculosis skin test every five years and a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Monthly self-exams are important at all ages to check for cancer. Feel for lumps in the testicles, scan skin for unusual moles or marks, check the mouth for lesions, and feel for abnormal bumps in the breasts. Men get more of their skin cancers on their backs, where they can't see them and, therefore, may need help examining skin.
AGES 20 TO 39:
Men should have a complete physical exam every two to three years, depending on their health status. The exam should include urinalyses and blood tests for high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney and thyroid dysfunction, as well as STD screening for those who are at risk. At age 30, men should have their first electrocardiogram (EKG) to screen for heart abnormalities.
AGES 40 TO 49:
Men should now have a physical every one to two years and an EKG every four years. They should also have an annual fecal occult blood test, which screens the stool for microscopic amounts of blood that can be the first sign of polyps or colon cancer. Every two years they should have a urinalysis to check cholesterol levels, diabetes risk, homocysteine levels (to detect heart disease), kidney function, and other basic functions. Black men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should begin having an annual PSA blood test, which checks for high levels of prostate-specific antigen, an indication of prostate cancer. This might also be the time to begin screening for low testosterone, which can lead to decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Men should schedule physical exams every year now, as well as an annual urinalysis. EKGs should be done every three years. Fecal occult blood tests, chest X-rays, and testosterone screenings should continue as before, and all men should now have an annual PSA test. Every three to four years, men should have a colorectal health exam, which checks the rectum for polyps that can progress to cancer. A recent study found that the risk of colorectal cancer death was 80 percent lower among people who had undergone a sigmoidoscopy, an exam of the large intestine near the rectum. At age 60, men should discuss with their physicians the possibility of a bone mineral density test, because men, too, are at risk of osteoporosis.