If you’re a male or have an adult male in your life, then by now you’ve probably observed a general trend that most adult males visit their doctor infrequently. September is Men’s Cancer Awareness Month and is a good time to start thinking a little more critically about incorporating routine yearly physicals with your doctor. While we would hope this is a reflection of a state of optimal health, the truth is that there are many potentially dangerous processes undetectable by our senses that could be occurring within our bodies and minds.
When Should You Start Preventative Screening for Cancer?
At a minimum, every adult male should seek routine preventive screening beginning as early as age 20. Along with the usual check of your throat, the sound of your heart and breathing, your healthcare provider should also screen for cancer when and where appropriate.
What Is The Prostate?
The prostate is a gland, which is walnut sized and shaped. It is located directly beneath your bladder. A thin tube (urethra) leaving your bladder, through which you urinate, passes directly through this gland. When enlarged by cancer or another process, it affects your ability to urinate normally. Prostate cancer is usually slow growing, however it can present in a more aggressive form. Please ask your healthcare provider whether or not screening is appropriate for you and when. Typically screening begins at age 50, unless you are a Black male or have a male family member who developed prostate cancer before the age of 65. In this case, it is recommended that you seek screening earlier. Screening tests may include a blood test and the now, far less recommend, digital rectal exam. Ask your provider which is appropriate for you.
What Other Cancers Should Men Consider Screening For?
For men, Prostate Cancer receives a lot of press, but there are other cancers that should never be overlooked or underestimated. Make sure your primary healthcare provider screens for the following cancers: Prostate, Colon, Testes, Lungs, and Skin.
Other Cancers That Commonly Affect Men
Colon Cancer is a disease that can affect your large intestines (Colon) and the area of the colon closest to your anus, the rectum. Screening for polyps (pre-cancerous) and cancer typically begins at age 50 unless an immediate family member had colon cancer before the age of 60. If so, screening may be recommended as early as 40 and even earlier depending on the age when your family member was diagnosed. There are many ways to screen for this disease including stool tests looking for traces of blood, imaging studies, and procedural studies like a colonoscopy. Ask your healthcare provider which is most appropriate for you. Symptoms might include blood in your stool, constipation, and abnormally shaped stools.
Lung Cancer can be caused by a number of reasons including exposure to hazardous gases and chemicals. By far, the most significant and modifiable risk for lung cancer is smoking. If you are a smoker or have had occupational or recreational exposures to hazardous chemicals or gases, please ask your healthcare provider about screening for lung cancer. Screening usually takes place in the form of an X-Ray, followed by a CT scan, MRI or testing by a lung specialist. Symptoms may include chronic cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Testicular Cancer typically affects young men, but may develop in older men too. Males should self-examine their testicles on a regular basis feeling for lumps, bumps, pain, enlargement, and swelling. Achy lower abdominal pain may also accompany testicular cancer. Please ensure your healthcare provider screens you for testicular cancer at each annual physical.
Skin Cancer affects the young and old, women and men. Ask your healthcare provider to look over your skin at each physical. You are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer if you are fair-skinned, have a history of severe and or frequent sun burns, and have a history of a lot of sun exposure at some point in your life. Weekly, even daily, look at or have a loved one look over the skin of your face, head, neck, body and extremities. Look for new spots or any that have changed in color, shape or size. Changing lesions, dark lesions, bleeding and non-healing lesions are suspicious for cancer. Some cancers of the skin are very aggressive so never hesitate to call your healthcare provider or a dermatologist for immediate evaluation.
Your health and vitality is one thing you can never regain—it cannot be bought, nor bargained for. What you have is what you got. Make it a point to have regular physicals with your primary healthcare provider and ensure that you are being screened appropriately for these treatable conditions as well as others. Remember, early detection with treatment is far less harmful than facing the dismal odds of an unchecked cancer left to run its wild course in your body. Those who love you both need and want you in their lives. Be the best you can be, get screened today, and aim to live an abundant life full of health and great quality.
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