Men’s Health Tune-Up Schedule: Medical Tests

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Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”

It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring medication when they need it. They are also less likely to be subjected to needless and costly medical test. Weida adds they’re also more likely to call or make an appointment when they do have a problem.

The most important consideration when choosing a primary care physician, Kellerman says, is how well you communicate with him or her. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor, choose a new one. Another important consideration is how accessible the doctor is. If you have an acute problem, will the doctor be able to see you that day?

Be on the lookout for specific health conditions

Though an annual checkup may not be required, men do need to be on the lookout for certain conditions as they age. The following list of “musts” and “maybes” distinguishes the medical tests that virtually all men should have from those that depend more on personal and family history.

To create the list, we used recommendations from the evidence-based guidelines of the U.S. Prostate cancer screenings are among the most controversial medical tests today. The task force has taken a pass on the issue. It says there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine screening with either the specific antigen test (PSA) or digital rectal examination. While the PSA can detect prostate cancer in its early stages, it can also return many false positives. “You could go through surgery and end up incontinent or impotent [as a result of complications from surgery] for something that wasn’t going to cause you any problems,” Kellerman says. He suggests talking to your doctor about the relation between prostate cancer, age, and family history. Then you can decide together whether to take the PSA. The PSA is most likely to benefit men aged 50 to 70. It can also be beneficial if you are over 45 and are at increased risk.

  • Diabetes. The task force doesn’t take a stand on the need for routine screening of all adults for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Kellerman also screens many of his overweight patients for diabetes.
  • Skin cancer. The task force says that benefits from skin cancer screening “are unproven, even in high-risk patients.” But doctors are told to be alert for moles with unusual characteristics while doing exams for other reasons. The American Academy of Dermatologists begs to differ. Academy President Boni E. Elewski, MD, suggests a monthly self-exam to look for irregular moles. She recommends a trip to a dermatologist once a year for a complete exam.
  • Testicular cancer. Testicular cancer mainly affects young men, ages 20 to 39. Though testicular cancer is rare, it is curable if detected early. The task force finds that “little evidence is available to assess the accuracy, yield, or benefits of screening for testicular cancer.” Nonetheless, the American Cancer Society recommends a testicular exam “as part of a routine cancer-related checkup.” Regular self-exams are not necessary, according to the society.