Prostate Cancer

Routine Screening Tests for Men

After we reach a certain age, we need to be more careful about our health. This is a general rule that applies to both men and women.

We will diagnose some of the most common health issues early enough through routine screening so that the treatment has a high success rate.

And so, in today’s article, we will review the best routine screening tests for men and explain why each of them is very much needed at a certain point in men’s lives. 

PSA Test

As you probably know, the prostate is a small, endocrine gland found below the male bladder. The prostate gland is involved in sperm production and transportation. It forms the fluid that is a part of the sperm, later emitted during ejaculation. 

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. The PSA test is a part of routine prostate cancer screening. It measures the levels of PSA in the blood. PSA is produced by cancerous and non-cancerous prostate tissue. The majority of PSA is found in the semen; however, small amounts are registered in the blood as well. 

High PSA levels may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. But it does not have to be prostate cancer that is causing a rise in your PSA levels. Other conditions, such as prostate inflammation and benign prostate hyperplasia, may cause high PSA levels as well. Often determining the exact cause of elevated PSA levels is more challenging than it seems. 

A PSA blood test is done like any other blood test. A medical practitioner will collect a blood sample using a needle. The sample will then be analyzed so that your PSA levels would be measured. A PSA blood test is one of the most commonly done blood tests for men. This test is a part of the routine prostate cancer screening and a prostate biopsy and a digital rectal examination, which are done as needed. 

Testosterone levels

Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, much like estrogen and progesterone are in women. This hormone provides the basic male characteristics in males and later accounts for just about anything related to male health -their mood, physique, fertility, etc.

Both men and women experience changes in their hormone levels. For women, these changes begin once their menstrual cycle is at an end and their estrogen and progesterone levels drop. In men, similar changes happen to their testosterone levels.

In most men, their testosterone levels decline after the age of 40. This is when they start experiencing common low testosterone symptoms. Infertility, hair loss, muscle loss, mood changes, erectile dysfunction, and an increase in body fat are all quite common signs and, as such, quite troubling as well. 

There are two types of testosterone – total and free testosterone. Total testosterone refers to the total testosterone produced and available in the body. On the other hand, free testosterone refers to what little testosterone is left unbound to albumin or sex-hormone-bound globulin (SHBG).

Perhaps you did not know this, but up to 98% of your testosterone is bound and, as such used, whereas only 2% of the testosterone in the body is free. The total testosterone level in healthy individuals variates depending on age and other factors. 

As the term suggests, a testosterone test measures free and total testosterone levels in the male body. It is normally used among those who are showing signs of low testosterone levels.

The testosterone test is one of the first tests that a doctor requires to help diagnose male infertility. It is done in the form of blood testing, where a blood sample is collected and later analyzed, measuring the testosterone level. Later, according to the results, testosterone replacement therapy may be prescribed to help eliminate the present symptoms.  

Weight and Height

Weight and height screening is important for male health as well. It is important to keep an eye on one’s weight to make sure that they are maintaining a healthy weight.

Obesity is not a risk factor that should be underestimated. It is one that brings you closer to many potential health issues. Cardiovascular disease, heart attack, high blood sugar levels and diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and bowel cancer are some of the greatest health risks linked to obesity. 

By using your weight and height measurements, your doctor can easily determine your BMI (Body Mass Index). This information can help him determine how healthy your weight really is. But keeping an eye on your height is important as well, especially after the age of 50. Men tend to lose about an inch between the ages of 30 and 70.

However, research has shown that a higher height loss is closely associated with major coronary heart disease events as well as a higher mortality rate. Measuring your height at least once a year after the age of 50 is recommended. 

Hepatitis C Test

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that targets the liver, causing liver inflammation. It is through the contaminated blood that a hepatitis C infection spreads. Left untreated, this infection can lead to serious liver damage. This is where a routine hepatitis C screening test comes in handy. 

A hepatitis C test, also known as the HCV antibody test, can reveal an existing or past hepatitis C infection. The HCV antibody test is done by collecting a blood sample. The blood sample is then analyzed in order to reveal the presence of HCV antibodies in the blood. A non-reactive HCV test means that there is no present hepatitis C infection.

In contrast, a reactive or positive HCV test indicates that the patient is probably infected with hepatitis C. In this case, a follow-up test is usually done. 

This test is recommended to any man who has an increased risk of this infection. If that is the case, the doctor usually requires regular HCV tests to be done throughout the patient’s life. Risk factors for hepatitis C infection, including being HIV-positive, being a healthcare worker exposed to infected blood, received a blood transfusion and/or organ transplant before 1992, have used illicit drugs, etc. 

Lung Cancer Test

According to the American Cancer Society, the estimated number of lung cancer cases in men in 2020 is 116,300. And that is the estimated number of cases in the US alone.

Lung cancer proceeds to rise on the scale of the deadliest cancer types, with prostate cancer still being the most common cause of death among men when speaking of cancer-related deaths. 

A lung cancer test is done annually among active and past smokers. It is routine screening for men between the ages of 55 to 80 years old. If you are a smoker with a 30-year smoking history, your doctor will recommend doing a lung cancer test. The same applies to past smokers who have quit smoking in the past 15 years.

Different diagnostic methods are used during this screening. X-ray, CT scan, pleural tap, and sputum cytology are some of the routine tests done in such cases. The doctor will also measure tumor markers and perform lung biopsy as needed. 

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy efficiently detects any abnormalities present in the colon and/or rectum. This procedure allows for abnormal tissue such as polyps to be removed, as well as for tissue samples to be collected.

It represents a routine screening procedure for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is recommended to every man older than 50 years of age, as well as to those who are at an increased risk of colon cancer. 

During this rectal exam, the doctor inserts a colonoscope into the rectum. Using the small camera that is attached at the end of the colonoscope, the doctor gets a complete view of the inside of the colon. Colonoscopy is one of the most commonly done digital rectal exams. If you are at risk of colon cancer, a colonoscopy will be done every ten years in the absence of symptoms. For anyone who has had polyps in the past, a colonoscopy is recommended to be done every five years.

Blood pressure screening

High blood pressure is one of the most serious health issues known to men. The reason why it is considered to be so serious is that, as time passes, it brings you closer to some much more serious and even life-threatening problems. Stroke, heart disease, and heart attack are among the most threatening of them all. 

This is why it is highly important to keep an eye on your blood pressure levels, even in cases where there is no history of high blood pressure. In individuals with normal blood pressure, it is recommended that they do a screening every two years. In cases of elevated blood pressure, a screening is done once a year. 

Cholesterol check

Cholesterol is the fat-like substance found in every cell in the body. Whenever we hear someone mention cholesterol, we naturally think of it as a bad thing. But that is not necessarily true.

In fact, our body needs some cholesterol to keep its cells and tissues healthy and happy. Over the years, we have learned to differ “bad” from “good” cholesterol.

The “bad” LDL (low-density) cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels’ walls and makes them hard and narrow. On the other hand, the “good” HDL (high-density) cholesterol helps transport the excess cholesterol back to the liver. 

A total cholesterol check, also known as lipid profile, measures LDL and HDL levels in the body. All that is needed is a fresh blood sample. A cholesterol check is usually done every five years.

Obesity, diabetes, having a sedentary lifestyle, having a medical history of high cholesterol and/or heart disease, and smoking are some of the most common risk factors for high cholesterol. In case a risk factor is present, a cholesterol check is more frequently done. 

Blood sugar screening 

Blood sugar screening can help diagnose high blood sugar levels and diabetes. It can be easily done at home, using a glucometer or a continuous glucose monitoring device.

The blood sugar test is done annually, except among those who have been diagnosed with diabetes. In such a case, blood sugar monitoring is done daily to help maintain these levels within the normal ranges as much as possible. 

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening

Often doctors find an abdominal aortic aneurysm while searching for another problem. For instance, the majority of the abdominal aortic aneurysms are diagnosed while doing an ultrasound of the heart or the abdomen.

The abdominal aortic aneurysm is done by performing a CT scan, abdominal ultrasound, and an MRI. This screening is required among men between the ages of 65 to 75 years and those who have smoked in the past or still do in the present. Smokers have an increased risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm, thus the need to screen them accordingly. 

Skin cancer screening

Skin cancer is defined as the most common cancer worldwide. As statistics show, every 1 in 5 Americans is diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, men are more commonly diagnosed with skin cancer as compared to women. Men are also more likely to die from skin cancer than women. Knowing that routine skin cancer screening is a must. 

The good thing about a skin cancer screening is that you can perform it yourself, although it is recommended that a doctor performs an annual skin cancer screening as well. This is a visual skin exam during which the doctor looks for any irregular moles, birthmarks, and other skin marks. In the case of suspected skin cancer, the doctor will proceed to perform a skin biopsy. 

Conclusion

Semen analysis, blood tests, and rectal exams are some of the most commonly used routine tests among men. Through their use, doctors can diagnose the common health issues and proceed towards properly treating them. If you are a man after the age of 50, we highly recommend consulting your doctor about the routine screenings that you should be doing and when. 

Sources

  1. Basler, J. (n.d.). The Digital Rectal Examination in Prostate Cancer Screening. Prostate Cancer Screening, 91-96. doi:10.1385/1-59259-099-3:91
    Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-59259-099-5_6
  2. Wannamethee, S. G. (2006). Height Loss in Older Men. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166(22), 2546. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.22.2546
    Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/769543
  3. Kim, S. Y., Kim, H., & Park, H. J. (2019). Adverse events related to colonoscopy: Global trends and future challenges. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 25(2), 190-204. doi:10.3748/wjg.v25.i2.190
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6337013/
  4. Recommendations on screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm in primary care. (2017). Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(36). doi:10.1503/cmaj.170118
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5595553/

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