Men's Cancer Screenings in Their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s

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Sarita Prajapati, MD: The biggest bang for your buck or the biggest benefit that we get out of screening is early detection. If you can find it early enough, before either anybody has symptoms or it's had a chance to spread, that treatment is much easier, much quicker, is much less painful, and they'll still have great quality of life once treatment is completed.

I do think it's important to have awareness of your own body when it comes to overall health in general, and then specifically with cancer screening patients who can actually stay on top of their own health, make sure they're aware of any changes in their own bodies. I think that goes a long way. For men, there's not really a whole lot that they need to do when they're young. So when you're in your 20s, the one piece I would suggest that men do who are young is to make sure that you do a periodic self testicular exam. While there's not a huge amount of testicular cancer out there, it is a cancer of young men. If you notice a lump or a bump that's not supposed to be there, that is something you need to bring to our attention.

In their 30s not a whole lot changes for men. So again, that body awareness is going to be present. I still recommend self testicular examinations at that point. And if there's no other risk factors, based on something like family history, that's really it from a cancer screening standpoint. Once men reach their 40s, it's time to have a discussion about prostate cancer screening. Not all men need to necessarily, but that's when you should have that conversation. There are higher rates of prostate cancer in certain parts of the population based on race and ethnicity. So we have some of the tools to screen for prostate cancer.

For men in their 50s, body awareness is still the base of what they need to be considering. So any changes, lumps and bumps, things on the skin, moles, that kind of thing. And prostate cancer screening then becomes maybe a bigger topic for the general male population to discuss with their provider. That's done at the most once a year for men in their 50s. Colon cancer screening then comes into play for men in their 50s.

Screening colonoscopy is the gold standard. That's once every 10 years, as long as it's normal. And then, for men who reach their mid 50s, lung cancer screening might be appropriate, depending on their past or present smoking history. So if it's significant enough, then a low dose CT scan done once a year is something to consider in that age range as well.

The guidelines in the 60s are actually quite similar for men in their 50s. For men who approach their 70s and then beyond, cancer screening becomes much more of an individualized approach, rather than a blanket recommendation. So it becomes more important to weigh the risks and benefits and to look at what that patient will get out of that screening at that age.

I think the takeaway point when it comes to cancer screening, tests, and procedures in general is that when you're doing that test or that procedure, you're looking for an abnormality of any kind. The whole reason we do them is to find them before someone has problems.