Preventative screenings can improve men’s health
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), men in the United States die five years earlier than women on average. And they die at higher rates from the three leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries.
The simple strategy of scheduling routine doctor visits can prevent some conditions from becoming serious. Speak to your doctor about scheduling screenings that can detect these conditions early when they are most successfully treated.
Paul Pena, DO, of Brevard Health Alliance, encourages men to learn about advances in screening techniques. Fear or embarrassment among men about testing for colon and prostate cancer have prevented them from getting life-saving screenings.
“These tests are up there with the most common barriers for men to get a health check,” said Dr. Pena. He recommends that men ask their doctors specifically about new non-invasive tests that only require blood or stool samples. “Ultimately, this will give men an overall better chance at reducing their risk of death from all diseases.”
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, according to the American Cancer Society. According to the CDC, men who are aged 55 to 69 should consider being screened for prostate cancer with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. This simple blood test measures the level of PSA (a substance made by the prostate) in the blood. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer.
Some risk factors for prostate cancer include:
- Age – The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
- Race/Ethnicity – Prostate cancer develops more often in African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. And when it does develop in these men, they tend to be younger.
- Family history – Prostate cancer seems to run in some families; however, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of it.
Some men experience a variety of symptoms, while others do not have symptoms at all. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty starting urination.
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Urinating often, especially at night.
- Trouble emptying the bladder completely.
- Pain or burning during urination.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider.
According to the CDC, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened by colonoscopy for colorectal cancer every 10 years, beginning at age 45. During the screenings, doctors check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, providers can remove most polyps and some cancers.
There are, however, many non-invasivse stool-based screening options that can be done from the comfort of your own home.
- The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool from the lower intestines. This test must be done every year, unlike some other.
- The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) finds hidden blood in stool through a chemical reaction. It works differently from the FIT, but like the FIT, the gFOBT can’t tell if the blood is from the colon or from other parts of the digestive tract (such as the stomach). This test must be done every year and checks more than one stool sample.
- A stool DNA test (also known as a multitargeted stool DNA test [MT-sDNA] or FIT-DNA) looks for certain abnormal sections of DNA from cancer or polyp cells and also for hidden blood.
Preventative measures for colorectal cancer include increasing physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco have been shown to help prevent the disease.
Men are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Research has shown that the higher the Body Mass Index and waist circumference the greater the risk of developing diabetes.
Signs of diabetes include extreme thirst and frequent urination. Those who have diabetes are also at risk for heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, and even amputation of a toe, foot, or leg.
It is never too late to take steps to avoid or improve a diabetes diagnosis. Be sure to maintain a healthy diet, stay physically active, and lose any extra weight. Be sure to have clear and honest conversations with your physician so you can make informed choices regarding your health.
Brevard Health Alliance can conduct diabetic screenings, which include an easy A1C test. Ask your provider about our Diabetes Management Program.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. Approximately 1 in every 4 deaths in men is the result of heart disease.
- Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
- Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
- Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.
Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease. Medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can put patients at a higher risk for heart disease include:
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and glucose (blood sugar) levels are good,
routine screenings to help heart health. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American
Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Cardiology Foundation, and the
American Heart Association advise against exercise electrography in asymptomatic, low-risk
Depression is very common – 1 in 8 men experience it at some point in their life.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, white males account for over three-quarters of suicides, with the rate of suicide highest in middle-aged white men.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Feeling anxious, restless, or “on the edge”
- Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
- Problems with sexual desire and performance
If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.
If you are in crisis, know that you are not alone. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.