Screening Tests for Men Archive


A new look at colon cancer screening

Don't be intimidated about screening tests. The latest guidelines suggest you can choose from multiple strategies.

Image: Bigstock

Colon cancer continues to be the country's second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most common cancer in men, according to the CDC.

It almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths). Screening tests, which are recommended for men ages 50 to 75, help find and sometimes aid removal of polyps before they become cancer. (Men older than 75 may still benefit, depending on their health.)

Do you need a depression screening?

News Briefs

Don't be surprised if your doctor screens you for depression at your next visit. An update to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for screenings, published Jan. 26, 2016, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that all adults 18 or older, including older adults, should be screened for depression when there are systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and appropriate follow-up. The previous recommendations encouraged selective screening based on professional judgment and patient preferences. The new recommendation also includes pregnant and postpartum women for the first time. "Older adults often struggle with chronic disease, or the loss of a loved one, which may lead to depression," says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Screening is just a way to open the door for people who might otherwise not get the help they need." Dr. Miller says screening can simply be asking if, over a two-week period, you have either had little interest or pleasure in doing things or felt depressed and hopeless.

Do you really need that cancer screening?

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A research letter published online Jan. 21, 2016, in JAMA Oncology suggests that many older adults are getting unnecessary cancer screenings. Researchers looked at questionnaire answers from about 150,000 seniors (ages 65 or older) across the country, and found that about half had received prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing or mammography in the past year. But a third of those screened did not have a 10-year life expectancy, a major guideline for screening. Unnecessary screening rates varied by state—for example, 11% in Colorado and about 20% in Georgia. "Undergoing a screening test may actually cause more harm than good, especially with older patients or those with significant medical conditions," says Dr. Marc Garnick, an oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and editor in chief of Harvard's Annual Report on Prostate Diseases. So talk to your doctor about the guidelines. Both the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend routine mammograms every two years for women ages 55 to 74. The ACS does not recommend mammograms in this age group if a woman has a life expectancy of less than 10 years.

For all men, the USPSTF recommends against routine PSA testing. The ACS suggests that men 50 or older (at average risk for prostate cancer) make the decision about screening with their doctor, but only if they have a life expectancy of at least 10 years, and only if they have been advised about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening.

Test may diagnose prostate cancer more accurately

A study in the December 2015 issue of The Lancet Oncology found that a new test, called STHLM3, is more helpful at detecting aggressive cancer than traditional tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

The STHLM3 test is a blood test that analyzes a combination of six protein markers, more than 200 genetic markers, and various clinical data, such as age, family history, and previous prostate biopsies.

Passing your physical exam

The annual check-up is important for older men. Here is how to make the most out of your visit.

Men have a long reputation for avoiding check-ups, and that resistance tends not to soften when they are older.

"Many older men put off exams because they fear finding out something is wrong," says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, a geriatrician with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Also, many of today's baby boomers don't think they will have medical problems associated with age, so it can difficult for the 'younger older men,' like those in their 60s and early 70s, to see their doctor."

Colon cancer testing: What's in it for you?

Image: iStock

Being checked for hidden colorectal cancer is a smart bet, though it's hard to say whether it will ultimately extend your life span.

Recently, the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable—a national organization of medical groups, health care providers, government agencies, and patient advocates—launched the "80% by 2018" initiative. The goal is to convince more people to get screened for hidden colorectal cancer. Right now, about 65% of Americans do so.

Which tests do you need in 2016?

Make sure you get your blood pressure measured at least once a year.
Image: Thinkstock

Screenings for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer aren't always routine.

Ask the doctor: Medical x-rays and risk of cancer

Image: Thinkstock

Q. I am currently receiving annual chest CT scans to check for hidden lung cancer (I used to be a heavy smoker). Should I be concerned about the cumulative effects of radiation exposure?

A. Radiation from medical scans can cause cancer, but the level of exposure considered potentially dangerous appears to be many times greater than the average CT scan. In addition, cancer from medical scans takes decades to develop, which makes it less of a concern for men being screened for lung cancer, which is currently only recommended for current or former smokers ages 55 and older. Radiation from CT scans is a bigger concern for children and young adults, who have more time to develop cancer after exposure to medical x-rays.

Should you be tested for weak bones?

Image: Thinkstock

Men also get osteoporosis—but consider your risk factors before deciding to have a bone-strength test.

Men's and women's bodies differ in plenty of ways, but we all have bones, and with aging they may lose some of their strength and leave us more vulnerable to dangerous fractures of the hip or spine. Osteoporosis is not exclusively a women's health issue.

Biomarkers for better prostate cancer screening

Biomarkers are "chemicals" that can indicate both normal and abnormal processes in the body. One of the most famous is prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The PSA test, which detects abnormally high blood levels of PSA, has been used for decades to screen for prostate cancer and potentially catch it early.

There are two problems with the PSA test. First, PSA levels can tell you that something is going on with the prostate — but that "something" isn't necessarily cancer. High levels may mean other benign prostate conditions. Second, when high PSA levels do turn out to be the result of prostate cancer, the PSA level alone won't tell you which cancers are aggressive and need treatment, and which are slow-growing and can be managed more conservatively.

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