Doctors say adult men need preventative screenings to protect their health.
Men in the US are less likely to visit their doctor regularly than women, but experts say regular visits and screening tests performed during those visits can help prevent bigger problems and keep health care costs down.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 percent of men surveyed in 2010 did not have a regular place of health care. And those who did were more likely to consider a hospital emergency room or outpatient department to be the place where they regularly receive care.
The survey also found 27 percent of men had not made an office visit to a doctor or other health professional in the past year.
Preventative health screenings can uncover health problems men don’t even know about. Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar may not even produce symptoms early on.
ADC Family Practice Dr. Vimal George says there are several screenings and vaccinations recommended for healthy men throughout their lives.
Even if you are healthy and have no risk factors for heart disease and stroke, you doctor may order screenings known to prevent these and other diseases.
The US Preventative Task Force recommends several screenings, including:
- Blood pressure checks for those 18 years and older
- Cholesterol checks for men 35 years and older
- Colon cancer screens for men 50 years and over
Routine screening for prostate cancer is no longer recommended. There’s been some dispute over this recent recommendation change, but Dr. George says the task force found that the risks of the blood test outweigh the benefits.
“[The task force members] argue that an abnormal [prostate specific antigent (PSA) test] can potentially lead you down a path to invasive procedures such as biopsies and surgeries and treatments such as radiation therapy,” George said. “At the same time, the task force argues that while the PSA test does pick up prostate cancer earlier, the likelihood of saving lives as a result of testing is very low.”
Vaccines aren’t just for kids. There are several recommended for adult men, including:
- Tetanus (including pertussis) vaccines every 10yrs
- Influenza vaccine, yearly
- Shingles vaccine for those 60 years and over
- Pneumococcal vaccine for those 65 years and over
“Other vaccines that maybe indicated include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines, chicken pox vaccine, meningitis vaccine (for teens and young adults) and the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine — now indicated for boys and young men in addition to women,” Dr. George said.
How often should you visit your doctor?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer as to when you should visit your doctor for preventative screenings. It varies by age, gender and health history.
“It is actually not a good idea to be over-tested or over-screened as some of those screens can lead to adverse outcomes,” he said. “On other hand there are some very important screens that we know have the potential to save lives and prevent disease. Your doctor may need to order additional tests based on your particular past medical history or family history or if you are on certain medications or based on your lifestyle preferences.”
Bottom line: Visit your doctor and talk with him or her to find out what’s best for you.