You always remember to tune up your car. Why not make time to tune up yourself?
In our last Men’s Health Month post, we said that men are much less likely than women to go to the doctor. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in four American men does not have a regular source of healthcare. Not only do men avoid the doctor when they don’t feel well, they also don’t prioritize regular checkups. Many preventative healthcare screenings and exams are low-cost or free with most insurance, including Virginia Premier! Men at any age can stop disease in its tracks and stay healthy well into the future by having these tests regularly.
Routine Wellness Exam
Having a yearly wellness exam is a great way to start keeping tabs on your health. During your exam, your doctor will measure your height and weight, as well as check your body head to toe for anything unusual. Your exam may include:
- Blood pressure screening
- Routine blood tests, such as cholesterol, blood sugar, vitamin D, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- An EKG test, which lets doctors see how your heart is working
You’ll also have the chance to talk about your medical history, your family’s medical history, and any health concerns you might have. This information helps your doctor develop steps you can take to prevent illness and protect your health.
Colon Cancer Screening
Starting at age 50, all men should be screened for colon cancer every ten years. If you have a family history of colon cancer or have other risk factors, your doctor may want you to get screened sooner or more frequently. Although colon cancer is the third leading cause of death for men, it’s highly treatable if it’s found and treated early. You have a few different options for this screening, and your doctor can help you decide which is best for you.
- Stool tests: These check the stool for blood and other signs of colon cancer, and can often be done at home
- Sigmoidoscopy: A doctor uses a camera to look for cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon
- Colonoscopy: Like a sigmoidoscopy, except that the doctor is able to look at the entire colon and remove any polyps or cancer that they may find
If you’re nervous about getting a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, not to worry! These tests are done with the use of a sedative, which blocks pain and help you relax.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Your doctor may already check your prostate during a routine wellness exam, but as you get older, you might need a more thorough screening. Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men. Like colon cancer, it is highly treatable if it’s found early. Starting at age 50, or at 45 if you have risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening. If you are at a high risk or are experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer, they might recommend a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. It’s important to remember that high PSA levels don’t always mean cancer – there are lots of treatable conditions that might cause that. In any case, it’s better to know and take action than wonder and let it get worse.
Mental Health Screening
We’ll be talking about men’s mental health in another post later this month, but if you’re not feeling like yourself mentally, having a conversation with your doctor is the first step toward getting help. Depression and anxiety are common in men and women alike, but men often find these topics hard to talk about. They are not a sign of weakness. They’re medical conditions that impact your physical health and quality of life. With the help of your doctor, other mental healthcare professionals, and your loved ones, you can develop strategies that make your day-to-day life healthier and happier.