Cancer Screening Guide for Guys

Busy men tend to put off checkups, especially if they feel fine. But that can be a serious mistake when it comes to health.

Men’s Health Month in June is an opportunity to learn more about the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases affecting men. Learning more can be lifesaving — especially when it comes to protection from cancer.

Case in point: Prostate cancer is the most common type of malignancy in men (besides skin cancer) and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men after lung cancer. But there’s good news from the American Cancer Society (ACS): The 5-year survival rate for non-spreading prostate cancer is nearly 100%.

Prostate exams: Do men need regular prostate cancer screening if they have no symptoms or elevated risk for prostate cancer? The ACS advises all men to talk with their health care providers about prostate screening based on age and personal risks, if they’re in the following groups:

  • Men age 40 and at highest risk for the disease because they have more than 1 first-degree relative (a father or brother) who had prostate cancer at an early age;
  • Men age 45 and at elevated risk due to being African American and/or having a father, brother or son diagnosed with the disease when they were younger than 65;
  • Men age 50, at average risk of prostate cancer and who expect to live at least another decade.

The ACS emphasizes health status and age because prostate cancer usually grows slowly and, if a man is seriously ill and not expected to live for another 10 years, cancer screening and treatment may not be indicated.

Prostate cancer screening involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood
test and often a digital rectal exam. If no cancer is found, future screenings
may be scheduled depending on the results of the PSA test. For example,
a PSA of less than 2.5 ng/ML typically is repeated every 2 years, while a
higher PSA level should be tested yearly, according to the ACS.

What other cancer screenings do men need? Colorectal cancer is highly
preventable with regular exams, such as a colonoscopy or fecal DNA test,
to find and remove pre-cancerous polyps. The ACS recommends men begin
colorectal screening at age 45 or earlier if they have risks such as a family
history of colorectal cancer.

Talk to your provider about other cancer screenings, including skin
cancer checks. Lung cancer screening for smokers and others at high
risk increases the chances of effective treatment. Inform your provider
immediately if you have lung-related symptoms, including a persistent
cough, rust-colored sputum and pain with deep breaths.

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