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Men’s Health Tune-Up Schedule: Medical Tests

Not one for annual checkups? OK, but you still need these medical tests and exams.

Maybe medical tests

You may or may not need the following tests. It all depends on your particular situation.

  • Prostate Cancer. 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 prostate 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 type 2 diabetes. But it does recommend diabetes screening for adults who have 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 skin 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.

Reviewed on March 24, 2008

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