In Your Prime: Recommended health screenings for men over age 55

Health screenings are an important component of men’s health care. Now is the time to have a discussion with the doctor about which screenings are necessary.
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Health screenings are an important component of men’s health care. Now is the time to have a discussion with the doctor about which screenings are necessary.

Men need to be proactive in regard to monitoring their overall health. This includes seeing their doctors for regular wellness visits and keeping up with recommended screenings to catch and/or prevent illnesses. While men and women can experience the same conditions, health experts recommend specific tests and screenings for men in various age groups.

Johns Hopkins Medicine advises that men are at risk for certain conditions, including several types of cancer, such as prostate, colon and lung cancers. However, Harvard Medical School states men are less likely than women to get routine physical exams and screenings. An American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that 55 percent of men had not seen their doctors for a physical exam in the previous year, even though 40 percent had a least one chronic condition.

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While many screenings are recommended starting at age 40 or 50, men should discuss family histories and risk factors to determine if testing should begin earlier. The following are important health screenings to consider.

--- Prostate-specific antigen test: A PSA is a blood test that measures how much prostate-specific antigen is in the blood. Measuring PSA has been a standard for prostate cancer screening for 30 years. General guidelines indicate PSA screening begin at age 55. However, having at least one first-degree relative with prostate cancer could necessitate earlier testing.

--- Colorectal cancer screening: Colorectal cancer screening generally occurs between ages 50 and 75. Tests include fecal occult blood tests, stool DNA tests, colonoscopy, and contrast barium enemas. Doctors will determine which tests are applicable and how often to conduct them.

--- Diabetes: Men who have a BMI over 25 are overweight and should consider a diabetes screening. In addition, blood pressure above 130/80 mm Hg or other diabetes risk factors could require a blood test to check for elevated glucose levels.

--- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: Guidelines recommend a one-time screening for men who have smoked between the ages of 65 and 75.

--- Hepatitis B and C: Men are at increased risk for infection if they have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, received blood transfusions or transplanted organs before June 1992, are healthcare workers who have been stuck by needles, or travel to regions with high rates of the hepatitis B virus.

--- Lung cancer screening: Men should undergo a lung cancer screening through low-dose computed tomography if they are over age 55, have a 30-pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke or quit within the past 15 years.

--- Testicular cancer screening: Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers among young men, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. Early screening can include self-checks. Routinely checking the testicles for any lumps or unusual features while showering can help detect testicular cancer. Doctors may order a painless ultrasound if something is discovered.