Five Things You Need to Know About Men’s Health/Cancer Screenings

Christopher Lathan, MD, of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber.
Christopher Lathan, MD, of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber.

Cancer affects thousands of men across the United States every year, with the most common diagnoses coming in the form of prostate, colon, testicular, lung, and skin cancer.

Not all cancers can be detected early on, but for some forms of the disease, the spread of cancer can be prevented through screenings. As June marks Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month, here are five things you need to know about men’s health screenings:


1. Prostate Cancer

One in every six men is affected by prostate cancer, which most often affects men over age 50. In addition, age, family history, diet and lifestyle, and race can all affect your risk and influence how often and at what age you should be screened. The most common screening is for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which measures the blood level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland. Screening recommendations:

  • Age 18-40: Usually not required.
  • Age 40-49: Discuss your risk level with your physician. Screening is recommended if you are considered high risk.
  • Age 50+: Discuss screening with your physician.


2. Colorectal Cancer

While anyone can develop colorectal cancer, most cases are found in people age 50 and older, and everyone over 50-years old should be screened. Colorectal cancer screening for people under the age of 50 depends on the presence of other risk factors including adenomas (polyps), diet, family history, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and a prior diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Screening tests can include flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, and CT colonography). Screening recommendations:

  • Ages 18-39: Screening is usually not necessary unless you have IBD, a concerning history of cancers in your family, or hereditary syndromes such as Lynch syndrome or FAP.
  • Ages 40-49: Review your risks annually with your physician. You may need to begin screening if you are at increased risk.
  • Ages 50+: Everyone should be screened. 


3. Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer may be the most common form of cancer for men ages 15-40, but fortunately it is also one of the most curable forms of cancer. Men should be encouraged to examine their testicles once a month and report any change in the way the testicle feels (increased size, lump in testicle, hard area) to their doctor right away. It is also important to speak with a doctor if you notice a dull ache in the lower stomach or groin, back pain, or pain/discomfort in the testicle itself. Screening for testicular cancer is easy and painless and can be done through a testicular exam, ultrasound, or blood test.


4. Lung Cancer

Although anyone can develop lung cancer, 80 percent of all lung cancers are caused by smoking and quitting smoking will lower your risk for lung cancer.

There is currently no standard screening for lung cancer. If you have a family history of the disease or are experiencing symptoms such as trouble breathing, chest discomfort, or blood in sputum, discuss testing options with your doctor. Other risk factors include previous diagnosis of lung cancer, exposure to asbestos, previous radiation to the chest for treating other cancer, prolonged exposure to high levels of radon, and chronic high-level exposure to second-hand smoke. Some tests, such as a chest CT scan, can help your physician get a better view of what is going on.


5. Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a rapidly growing disease that affects one in five Americans. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, wear hats and eye protection, and avoid excessive exposure to the sun.

To screen for skin cancer, anyone over 18 should complete a monthly self-exam to look for any new moles or changes to existing moles or birthmarks and have a physician evaluate them during your annual exam. Regular dermatologist appointments are important, particularly if you have a large number of moles, atypical moles or a family history of melanoma. Experts recommend using the “ABCDE rule” to help determine when a physician should see a mole or skin change.

More information about cancer screening recommendations.

2 thoughts on “Five Things You Need to Know About Men’s Health/Cancer Screenings”

  1. Catching skin cancer as early as possible is so important, now more so than perhaps ever before. Studies show that skin cancer rates are on the rise (in particular cases of melanoma). Factors such as significant early exposure to sun without protection and the use of tanning beds have left younger generations at significant risk for developing skin cancer. It’s why things like performing monthly self-exams for skin cancer are so important too. Similar to how we are advised to perform regular self-exams for lumps that could be potentially cancerous, becoming familiar with your skin means its more likely you’ll notice something that seems a bit strange or bizarre.

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