Men are more likely than women to avoid going to a doctor or skip recommended screenings. In fact, according to a 2022 survey, about 33 percent of men don’t think annual checkups are necessary, and an astonishing 65 percent think they're healthier than other people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are countless reasons why men put their health care on the back burner—too time-consuming, too expensive and unnecessary. If you’re one of these men (many of us are), you might begin to change your mind if you knew how many serious health conditions don’t have significant symptoms until they cause a life-threatening event.
When disease is detected early, it can often be treated faster and more successfully, with fewer costs and less time in the doctor’s office or hospital. The bottom line is keeping up with recommended men’s health screenings can help you live a longer, healthier, more active life— which can also give those you love some peace of mind, too.
If it’s been a while since you’ve set foot in a doctor’s office and you’re not sure where to begin, let’s get started. Here are six men’s health screenings that can help you take control of your health before it takes control of you.
1. Annual Physical Exams
Going to an annual physical exam is the first proactive step you can take. These appointments are generally quick and easy. If anything unusual is discovered, you will receive guidance about how to proceed. During a yearly exam, your provider will:
Ask about your family and personal medical history, including vaccines
Check your height and weight
Perform a painless physical exam, including a visual check for skin cancer, take your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature
Talk with you about your concerns and answer your questions
Your doctor may order blood or urine tests based on your age, current concerns, health history and risk factors. They may also talk with you about scheduling additional health screenings.
2. Cardiovascular Health Screenings
Heart and vascular health are essential at every age.
High blood pressure screening begins in your 20s. Your provider will conduct this screening, along with a heart rate check, at every appointment. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is a serious health condition that can have no symptoms until it causes a heart attack or stroke. Hypertension can be well-managed if it’s detected through a routine screening.
Cholesterol screening should begin in your 20s or 30s. Your provider will continue to check your cholesterol levels every four to six years if you’re at low risk for heart disease or stroke. Your provider may check more frequently if you’re at high risk for cardiovascular conditions. Like hypertension, high cholesterol rarely has symptoms but can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Managing high cholesterol can significantly lower that risk.
Cardiovascular problems are often the culprits behind erectile dysfunction (ED). This common sexual health concern can usually be prevented or reversed by taking better care of your heart.
3. Colorectal Cancer Screening
Starting at age 45, all men should be screened for colorectal cancer, which is cancer in the colon or rectum. Early detection of colorectal cancer typically leads to better outcomes. Like so many other cancers, the early stages of colorectal cancer usually don’t cause any major symptoms. However, the later stages of the disease cause symptoms that can be easily confused with less serious gastrointestinal issues. That is why routine screening is so critical.
The gold standard for colorectal cancer screening is a colonoscopy. During this procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia to put you to sleep during the procedure. Your provider will then use a scope to examine the inside of your rectum and colon.
Colonoscopy is the favored choice among physicians because they can immediately remove polyps they may find during the screening. Polyps are common occurrences that can lead to cancer if undetected. If no signs of colorectal cancer are found during the colonoscopy, you can wait 10 years to schedule your next screening.
Other options for colorectal cancer screening include a fecal occult blood test, which is an annual lab test that looks for blood in a stool sample. You may also choose a stool DNA test, which can be repeated every three years to check for cancer-related genes.
Based on your risk factors, your provider may recommend a combination of colorectal cancer screenings.
4. Screening for Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious, chronic but manageable, health condition affecting how the body regulates blood sugar. For men at low risk without diabetes symptoms, a blood test to screen for Type 2 diabetes is recommended every three years starting at age 45. For men who are overweight, have a family history of diabetes or have symptoms of diabetes, screening should begin during their 20s.
Diabetes symptoms are often challenging to spot. Many people who have diabetes don’t know it, underscoring the importance of blood tests for diagnosis and treatment. Without treatment, Type 2 diabetes can cause significant health issues, including kidney problems, nerve damage and vision loss.
Prediabetes is another growing health concern that affects more men than women (41 percent vs. 32 percent). The good news is that the condition can be completely reversed with lifestyle changes.
5. Mental Health Screenings
Your mental health is as vital to your overall well-being as your physical health. Unfortunately, many men still hesitate to discuss it or shrug it off as no big deal. However, ignoring your mental health or living with a high level of stress can take a toll on your physical health, job performance, relationships and overall quality of life. Like physical health concerns, mental health issues are often easier to treat or manage when addressed early.
Anxiety and depression screenings are now recommended during every annual physical exam. Concerns about your mental health or stress level are excellent reasons to make an appointment with your provider. Depression and anxiety are very treatable.
6. Testicular Cancer Screening and Self-Checks
Though rare, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men 35 and younger. Symptoms of testicular cancer, like a small lump or a heavy feeling in your abdomen, can be easy to miss or ignore. By the time symptoms become severe, the cancer has often spread to other parts of the body, where it is more challenging to treat. Simple screenings can detect testicular cancer early.
Your provider will likely screen you for testicular cancer as a part of your annual physical exam. A monthly self-check is also an effective way to detect signs that may point to testicular cancer.
Are You Feeling Great? Good. Now Is a Great Time to See Your Provider
Be proactive about your health care. Don’t wait until you feel sick to make an appointment with your primary care provider. Annual physical exams and recommended screenings are so important, even when you’re feeling well. They help establish a baseline, so your doctor knows what’s normal for you, and they identify health problems before they can get out of control. Don’t let health issues slow you down. Schedule your annual exam with a primary care physician today.