Men are less likely than women to get routine physical exams and screenings. A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that 55% of men surveyed had not seen their doctor for a physical exam in the previous year, even though 40% of them had at least one chronic condition. Nearly one-fifth of men ages 55 and over said they had never undergone screening for colon cancer, and almost 30% said they "wait as long as possible" to seek medical attention when they are feeling sick or in pain.
Screening means testing for diseases and conditions that may not yet be causing symptoms. If you already have a disease or condition, more frequent testing may be required. Here are some important tests to discuss with your doctor.
|Screening tests for men ages 50 and older|
|Abdominal aortic aneurysm||Guidelines recommend a one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm by ultrasonography in men ages 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.|
|Blood pressure testing||Testing at least every two years if you have normal blood pressure (120/80 or below); at least once per year if it is elevated or if you are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke (such as from smoking or diabetes).|
|Cholesterol test||Get this checked every five years; if you have risk factors for heart disease, discuss with your doctor whether you should be tested more frequently.|
|Colorectal screening||Men ages 50 to 75 should be tested by one of these three methods: (1) fecal occult blood test annually; (2) flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; (3) colonoscopy every 10 years. After age 75, discuss the need for continued screening with your doctor.|
|Diabetes screening||If you are age 40 to 70, and overweight or obese, you should be tested. If you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes or heart disease, or if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80, or if you use medication to control your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested, and how often.|
|Hepatitis B virus testing||Men at increased risk for this infection should be tested regularly (discuss how often with your doctor). Risk is increased if you have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, have shared needles during intravenous drug use, have sex with other men, are exposed regularly to human blood (such as medical workers), live with someone who has chronic hepatitis B virus infection, or travel to regions with high rates of hepatitis B virus infection.|
|Hepatitis C virus testing||Men at increased risk for this infection should be tested regularly (discuss how often with your doctor). Risk is increased if you have had blood (or blood product) transfusions or received a transplanted organ before June 1992, are a health care worker who may have been stuck by a needle, or have ever used injected drugs, even just once many years ago.|
|Lung cancer||Annual screening for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan in adults ages 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history (smoked one pack/day for 30 years, two packs/day for 15 years, etc.) and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.|
|Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test||When and whether men should have regular PSA tests for prostate cancer is controversial. These tests are not recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Discuss with your doctor.|
|Sexually transmitted infection
|Men who have had unprotected sex with a partner whose health history they do not know should be tested for syphilis (or other sexually transmitted diseases, if your doctor thinks you may be at risk).|
|Weight and height screening||The combination of weight and height determine your body mass index (BMI), the most widely used measure of overweight. Measure weight annually, and height once every 10 years past age 50.|
For more information on diseases and conditions afflicting men over the age of 50, purchase A Guide to Men's Health: Fifty and Forward from Harvard Medical School.