10 Tests Every Man Should Have
An ounce of prevention today can lead to a healthier life tomorrow
Men, we’ve heard it all before: regular exercise, eating right and staying on top of your health is important. Blah, blah blah, right?
Well, the reason you keep hearing it is because it’s true. Especially the part about staying on top of things.
Getting the right screenings and tests at the right time is one of the smartest things you can do for your health. Think about it: wouldn’t it be better to catch an issue early so you can treat it before it gets worse? Or, better yet, find nothing and have peace of mind that you’re good to go?
Where to start
The tests you need are based on your age and other factors. Getting started can be confusing, so we asked one of our experts for help.
“I often talk about all or some of the following tests with my male patients,” says Thomas Schorr, a Certified Nurse Practitioner at Adena. “In our region, high blood pressure, high blood sugars and high cholesterol are very prevalent.”
Here are 10 tests every man should have.
1. Blood pressure
All men need to have their blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is tied to your age, weight and lifestyle. Many men have high blood pressure and don't know it. It's easily treatable, and changing your diet and exercise habits can make a big difference. This is a simple test that can be performed in your doctor’s office, and it can help you avoid heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
2. Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is uncommon but can occasionally be seen in men between the ages of 20-54. If found early, it can be easily treated. Testicular exams are usually part of a man's routine checkup. Some doctors recommend men do self-exams for lumps, bumps, or changes in the testes' size or shape.
3. Hepatitis C virus
You can be infected with the hepatitis C virus (or HCV) and have no symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get tested at least once in your lifetime, but you should get screened if you:
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Were born to a mother with the virus
- Needs dialysis for kidney failure
- Received a blood transfusion before 1992
- Received blood clotting factors before 1987
- Have ever injected drugs.
Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer in the U.S., and it can be detected with a simple blood test.
All men 65 or younger should get screened for HIV. HIV spreads from one person to another through blood or other bodily fluids. Treatments can keep HIV infection from becoming AIDS, though these medications can have serious side effects. That’s why a simple blood screening is so important.
Men 35 and older should get their blood cholesterol levels checked regularly, or by age 20 if you:
- Use tobacco
- Are overweight
- Have a relative who had a heart attack before the age of 50
- Have diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of heart disease
If you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, plaque builds up in the walls of your arteries, making heart disease more likely. Lifestyle changes and medications can lower your LDL levels.
Nearly a third of all men have diabetes (or high blood sugar) and don't know it. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and sexual dysfunction. If caught early, you can control your diabetes with diet, exercise and medication. Screening for diabetes is a simple blood test that measures your blood sugar over the last three months.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately about getting tested:
- Severe thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unexpected weight loss
- Increased hunger,
- Tingling in the hands or feet
7. Skin cancer
If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn, you are at risk for skin cancer. Though there are several different kinds of skin cancer, melanoma is the most dangerous. The most common types of skin cancer are melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers.
You can check your skin regularly for changes, including the shape, color, and size of moles and other marks. You can also have your skin checked during a routine checkup. Treatments are more effective when skin cancer is found early.
8. Prostate cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends men start talking about prostate cancer screenings with their doctor at:
- 50 for average-risk men.
- 45 for men at high risk. This includes African-Americans.
- 40 for men with a family history of prostate cancer.
Screenings for healthy men may include:
- Digital rectal examination (DRE) – The physician inserts a finger into the rectum to feel whether the prostate gland is enlarged or has any lumps.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test – The PSA test measures the blood level of a certain protein that is produced by the prostate gland, and can be elevated in men with prostate cancer.
Government guidelines recommend against routine PSA testing, so talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.
9. Colon cancer
All men should get screened for colorectal (colon or rectal) cancer by age 50. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should get a colonoscopy even sooner. Most colon cancers develop from growths called polyps on the inner surface of the colon. Finding and removing colon polyps before they turn cancerous is key. Several different tests can help detect colon cancer, but colonoscopies are the gold standard.
10. Lung cancer
If you’re between the ages of 55-80 and have a history of heavy smoking, you should get a lung cancer screening. Heavy smoking is considered one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. It’s also recommended if you smoke or quit smoking in the past 15 years. The screening itself is a low-dose CT scan (a type of X-ray) that takes pictures of your lungs.
Stay on top of your health
Talk to your doctor about what you can do to practice preventive health.
“Diet and exercise can make huge impacts in several of these conditions at once,” Thomas said. “All men should take their health seriously and talk to their primary care providers about these tests or if they are having health changes and are not sure what to do next. The testing is easy and may be covered during annual examinations.”