It is no secret that health today is a major concern for everyone, especially for men in this month of November. Being Men's Health Awareness Month, we here at the Lovers Playground have conducted research on 9 essential screening tests every man needs to get and why with the mission of The Movember Foundation in mind, to change the face of men's health.
When it comes to prostate cancer, it is the most common cancer found in American men. 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 41 men will die from it. From what we know, a cancerous tumor develops on and/or inside of the Prostate. This tumor can press up against the urethra and seminal vesicle, making urination or ejaculation difficult, impossible, and painful. The kinds of test conducted to diagnose prostate cancer include a digital rectal exam (DRE) or a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The kind of test you take of course should first be discussed with your doctor.
Testicular cancer can not be taken lightly either as it is most common amongst males ages 15 to 34. Once diagnosed, it can be treated withing 5 years and approximately 95% of those diagnosed will survive. We know that there are two types of testicular cancer, seminomas which is slow-growing and slow-spreading tumors, and non-seminomas which is made up of more than one type of cancer cell and can grow & spread faster than seminomas. Some ways to tell if you are at risk of testicular cancer are if the testes did not form or descend normally, you have a known family history, or you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Some tests include a self examination or an examination with your doctor.
Colorectal cancer is also very serious in the sense of it being the second most common cause of death from cancer. Men are at slightly higher risk of developing it than women. This cancer slowly develops from a colon polyph; a growth on the inner surface of the colon. To prevent colon cancer, your doctor must first find the polyph, if polyphs are detected, a colonoscopy is needed to remove them before it turns cancerous. Once developed it can invade or spread to other parts of the body. Screenings for colorectal cancer begins at age 50 and are usually routed towards a colonoscopy, other screening tests include a sigmoidoscopy, a virtual colonoscopy, a CT scan or a double contrast barium enema (special x-ray).
Older men are also twice as likely to develop skin cancer compared to women of the same age, especially melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Men are also 2-3 times more likely to develop non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers than women are. The risk of developing skin cancer increases upon exposure to the sun and/or tanning beds. If you become sunburned, this risk will accelerate. The American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend regular self-exams of ones own skin, looking for any changes or marks which have a strange size, shape, and color. Visiting the dermatologist or other health professional should be part of a routine checkup.
Aside from certain cancers, high blood pressure (hypertension) is also something to look into when it comes to mens health. The risk of HBS increases with age and also relates to ones weight and lifestyle choices (diet, vices, etc.). HBs can lead to severe complications without showing any prior symptoms, including an aneurysm (dangerous ballooning of the heart). HBS can be treated, reducing risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Screening tests for HBS involve two readings in blood pressure, the first reading is systolic which measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats, and diastolic which measures the pressure between beats. A normal reading usually is 120/80 whereas a high reading would be 130/80. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise is recommended.
Ones cholesterol level is also something to be taken into serious consideration. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood causes sticky plaque to build up in the artery walls, which increases the risk of heart disease. Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) can progress without symptoms for many years, which over time can lead to heart attack and stroke. Recommended lifestyle changes and medication can reduce "bad" cholesterol and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The screening test for ones cholesterol level is called the fasting blood lipid panel, a blood test that tells your levels of total cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol, HDL "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat). This screening test should start for men at around the age of 20 (depending on their risk of heart disease). Men at age 35 should seek regular testing.
One of many health scares in this country today, type 2 diabetes. What is really scary is 1/3 of Americans today with diabetes do not know they have it. If it goes uncontrolled, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina, nerve damage, and impotence. When found early, diabetes can be controlled and complications can be avoided with a proper diet, regular exercise, weight loss, and medications. Screening tests for type 2 diabetes revolve around a fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test, or a Hemoglobin A1C diagnostic test. Healthy adults should have the test every three years starting at age 45. Those at higher risk, including cholesterol or blood pressure may have to start testing earlier and more frequently.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV as we know it is the virus that causes AIDS, it can be found in the blood and secretions of those infected, even when no symptoms are present. HIV can spread from one person to another when these secretions come in contact with the vagina, anal area, mouth, eyes, or a break in the skin. There is still no cure or vaccine but modern treatments can prevent HIV from developing however the medications can have serious side effects. Infected individuals can remain symptom free for years. The only way to find out if one is infected is through a series of blood tests. ELISA or EIA looks for antibodies to HIV in the blood and then a western blot assay is done for confirmation if the first test does not show up positive. Repeat testing is recommended as well as raising prevention awareness. To prevent the spread of HIV, practice safe sex with the use of condoms or dental dams or practice abstinence. Drug users should disregard the sharing of any needles.
Finally, another degenerate disease for men to be aware of is glaucoma, a group of eye diseases which gradually damages the optic nerve. This leads to blindness and significantly irreversible vision loss which can occur before people with glaucoma even notice any symptoms. Screening tests for glaucoma usually look for abnormally high pressure within the eye, to catch and treat the condition before damage to the optic nerve occurs. Screenings are usually based on age groups and is as follows: under 40 should be tested every 2 to 4 years, between the ages of 40 and 54 should be tested every 1 to 3 years, between the ages of 55 and 64 every 1 to 2 years, and ages 65 and up every 6 to 12 months. If this concerns you, speak with your doctor about earlier, more frequent screenings, especially if you fall in a high risk group, such as those with a family history of glaucoma, previous eye injury, or use of steroid medication.
We here at Lovers Playground hope you the reader found this to be an insightful look towards mens health and what can be done to ensure you or the men in your life maintain a healthy lifestyle.