Even if you've put off going to the doctor for your annual checkup, don't wait to get a screening test for the most common cancers that affect men -- colorectal, prostate, lung, and skin. They're easier to treat when you catch them early.
Your doctor may recommend one of these tests, or a combo:
Colonoscopy. Your doctor puts a flexible tube with a tiny camera into your rear end so he can see the inside of your colon and rectum -- two important parts of your digestive system. A day or so before the test, you'll have to go on a clear-liquid diet and drink a laxative.
The procedure takes about 30 minutes. You won't be awake while it's going on because of medicine you get called anesthesia. Your doctor will usually remove any polyps -- small lumps that can sometimes grow into cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy. It's like a colonoscopy, but it only allows your doctor to see part of your colon. You don't have to do as much prep, and you usually won't need anesthesia. The test takes about 20 minutes.
High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT). It checks for small amounts of blood in your bowel movements. Cancers in the colon and rectum can sometimes bleed.
For this test, you'll collect a small amount of your poop with a kit, and then bring it to your doctor. You might have to avoid certain foods and medicines in the days beforehand.
Who should get tested. You should get one of these if you're a man between 50 and 75 years old. You might need to start even earlier if you're at high risk for colorectal cancer.
If you're between 75 and 86, ask your doctor about your risks and whether you still need to get one of the exams.
How often you should get tested. That depends on which one you get. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) -- a panel of medical experts -- recommends one of these timelines:
- Colonoscopy once every 10 years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, plus FOBT every 3 years
- FOBT every year
It's the second-most-common cancer in men. Different health groups each have their own guidelines. Ask your doctor which tests you should have, and how often to get them, based on what your risk is for the disease.
Doctors use two main tests to check for prostate cancer:
PSA (prostate specific antigen). It looks for a protein in your blood that prostate cells release. Cancer causes the PSA level to rise. The problem is, other conditions like an enlarged prostate can also raise those levels.
Digital rectal exam (DRE). Itlets your doctor check for signs of cancer in your prostate gland.During this test, you either bend forward while standing, or lie on your side on an exam table. Then your doctor puts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to feel for any lumps in your prostate. You might bleed a little bit afterward.
Who should get tested. The USPSTF doesn't recommend the PSA test, but the American Cancer Society suggests that men talk to their doctor about their risks to make the best decision.
Men who are at average risk for prostate cancer may want to get one, and possibly a DRE, starting at age 50. If you're at high risk you may need to start testing earlier.
How often you should get tested. Ask your doctor whether you need a PSA or a DRE, and what the schedule should be.
It's deadliest cancer in men. Because one main cause is smoking, you should get a screening test if you've got a long-time tobacco habit.
Doctors check for lung cancer with an LDCT (low-dose computed tomography) scan. This test uses X-rays to make pictures of your lungs.
You don't have to do anything to prepare for the test. You lie on your back and raise your arms over your head as the table moves through the scanner. You'll have to hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds while it's done.
Who should get tested . Get this if all of these are true for you:
- You're 55 to 80 years old.
- You smoke now, or you quit within the past 15 years.
- You have a smoking history of at least 30 pack years -- meaning you smoked one pack a day for 30 years or an amount equal to it, such as two packs a day for 15 years.
How often you should get tested : Once a year.
The USPSTF doesn't make any recommendations one way or another about skin exams. But the American Cancer Society says regular checks by your doctor are a good way to find skin cancers early, when they're easiest to treat.
During a checkup, your doctor can look for any moles or other growths on your skin that might be cancer. You can also do a self-exam.
Ask your doctor about your risk for skin cancer. You may want to get skin exams if you've had it in the past, or if you have family members who've had it.
Ask your dermatologist how often you need to get your skin checked. You can examine your skin on your own once a month.