When it comes to maintaining his car, he’ll schedule a tune up. Taking care of his finances? He’ll arrange a meeting with his financial planner, of course. But finding time to stay on top of his personal health? This is one area many men overlook.
There are important reasons for men to schedule regular healthcare screenings, and not wait to see a doctor only when something is wrong. Here we asked three area physicians, Michael Gelatt, D.O., Todd Fogelsong, D.O. and Jeremy Hampton, D.O., to weigh in on the top health screenings men should schedule to stay healthy for a long time to come.
The “Big Six”
The U.S. Preventative Task Force has identified six health issues that men of all ages should keep an eye on. They are:
- high blood pressure
- colon cancer
“I would definitely agree that these are some of the primary health concerns for men in the U.S.,” says Dr. Hampton, a family practice physician at Cumberland Family Medicine. “However, I would put obesity at the top, as it’s a primary contributor to all of the other diseases on the list.” Dr. Hampton adds that several studies link obesity with depression and colon cancer.
Another health concern not included in the “big six”? Tobacco use. Dr. Fogelsong, a family physician with Community Health Network at Saxony, says, “Tobacco cessation is one of the most important preventative health measures. Tobacco use affects nearly every organ system in a detrimental way.”
Dr. Gelatt, a family physician with Community Health Network, says it’s important not to put off getting these tests done. “When we can detect certain diseases early, we have tools available to us that can help us prevent serious morbidity and mortality.”
What screenings to get and when
Dr. Hampton suggests that men over the age of 20 get a cholesterol screening, especially if there’s a history of heart disease in their family. Between the ages of 40 and 70, he recommends diabetes screenings for men who are overweight or obese. Dr. Gelatt agrees, and says this is one of two screenings he urges men to get. “Two of the screening tests I strongly recommend to my patients are a fasting glucose level or a hemoglobin A1C in order to find those at risk of developing diabetes, as well as a colonoscopy to detect colon cancer.”
What about prostate and testicular cancer screenings? According to Dr. Hampton, while the official guidelines for these screenings have changed over the years, monthly self-exams are key for men between the ages of 17 and 35. “While not extremely common overall, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in this age range,” says Dr. Hampton. “This also holds more personal weight with me as I’ve had several friends who have been diagnosed.”
“Routine colon cancer screenings should be offered to men beginning at age 50,” says Dr. Fogelsong, who adds that these screenings should start even earlier if there’s a family history of the disease. Fortunately, new technologies make these screenings much less intrusive than ever before. Cologuard, for example, can be used to screen for colon cancer in patients who are not high risk, and only requires a stool sample that can be collected comfortably at home.
Of the “big six” health concerns, all three doctors agree that depression is one that should not be overlooked. “I believe the body is an incredibly integrated unit of mind, body and spirit,” says Dr. Fogelsong. Dr. Gelatt adds that while talking about depression can be difficult for many people, it’s important to address because it can affect so many areas of our lives. “We have many options to treat depression, both with and without medication, and men should know that there are many others who are dealing with similar thoughts and feelings.”
Although it’s easy to put off, men really do need to make their health a priority and stay on top of the various issues that can affect them. Meeting with a physician can determine the specific screenings that are appropriate for each individual. Taking the time to schedule an appointment today could help avoid dealing with a much larger health concern in the future.