Mayo Clinic staff
You're not alone. Many men
avoid going to the doctor. Maybe you're not comfortable talking about your
health concerns, or maybe you feel OK and simply don't see any apparent
reason to see your doctor.
If you're a man, it's important for you to make preventive visits to your
doctor, says Philip Hagen, M.D., a specialist in preventive medicine at Mayo
Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "You need to get the appropriate screening done.
Each visit gives you an opportunity to talk with your doctor about your
health behaviors — and about life in general. It's important for you to
establish a working relationship with a doctor in the event something is
You may want to avoid bad news. But, says Dr. Hagen, "The good news is
that for the majority of diseases we screen for, if we detect the disease
early, it will never be a problem."
The following recommendations are general guidelines for screening
procedures for healthy men. Your doctor may recommend a different screening
schedule based on a variety of factors, particularly your health history,
age and family medical history.
What is it?
Measurements of your height, weight and waist measurement and your
body mass index.
To determine whether you're overweight or obese and to find out
from your doctor whether your weight is a threat to your health. People who
are overweight are more likely to have type 2 diabetes (formerly called
adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes), high blood pressure and risk
factors for other diseases.
At each visit for preventive care. The frequency varies with your
age and any medical conditions you have. The American Heart Association
recommends these measurements every 2 years after age 20.
What is it?
An inflatable cuff, wrapped around your upper arm, measures the
amount of pressure your heart generates when pumping blood out through your
arteries (systolic pressure) and measures the amount of pressure in your
arteries when your heart is at rest between beats (diastolic pressure).
For early detection of high blood pressure (hypertension). Blood
pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the
resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Narrowed arteries limit your
blood flow. In general, the more blood your heart pumps and the narrower
your arteries, the harder your heart must work to pump the same amount of
blood. The longer high blood pressure goes undetected and untreated, the
higher your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage.
At least every 2 years.
|What your blood
matter what category your blood pressure falls under, adopting ...
What is it?
A simple blood test that measures total cholesterol, low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and triglycerides.
Cholesterol is a form of fat carried in your blood by lipoproteins. LDL
deposits cholesterol on your artery walls, and HDL carries cholesterol away
from your arteries and to your liver for disposal. Problems occur when your
LDL deposits too much cholesterol on your artery walls or when your HDL
doesn't take enough away. This can lead to a buildup of
cholesterol-containing fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries
To evaluate the level of cholesterol in your blood. Heart disease
is the No. 1 killer among men in the United States. Undesirable levels of
cholesterol raise your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you're 20 or older, have your cholesterol measured every 5
years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements if your levels
What do the numbers mean?
Results from a blood fat test are listed as a set of numbers in
milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) indicating total cholesterol, low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), high-density (HDL)
cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. The National
Cholesterol Education Program, a branch of the National Institutes of
Health, has developed a set of guidelines to help determine which numbers
are acceptable and which ones carry increased risk. These numbers apply to
most people. If you have medical conditions such as diabetes or heart
disease, your doctor can determine what cholesterol levels are best for you
by taking into account your other medical conditions, habits and family
compare your numbers with these values, remember that numbers ...
Colorectal cancer screening
What is it?
Your doctor may recommend tests to examine your colon and rectum to
detect colon polyps that may become cancerous or colon cancer before
symptoms occur. The exams are:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT).
This test chemically checks your stool for hidden (occult) blood that can
only be detected through chemical testing. The test may be done in your
doctor's office or you may be given a kit to take the stool sample at
home. You usually obtain a stool sample for testing and store it in a
supplied container or use an applicator stick to smear it on a chemically
treated card. You then return the container or card in person or by mail
to a lab or your doctor's office for analysis. At the lab, a chemical is
applied to the specimen. The chemical reacts with the stool sample and
appears as a different color if it comes in contact with blood.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. Your
doctor examines the lower portion of your colon by inserting a thin,
flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope into your rectum. This procedure
usually takes about 15 minutes. Sigmoidoscopy may be done along with a
- Colon X-ray (double-contrast barium
enema). Liquid barium, a solution that looks bright white on
X-ray images, is put into your colon using a slender tube inserted into
your rectum. The barium outlines the inner surface of your colon, allowing
the X-ray to detect any irregularities. This test typically takes about 20
minutes and can cause abdominal cramping. It may be done in conjunction
with flexible sigmoidoscopy.
- Colonoscopy. Your doctor examines
the entire length of your colon using a thin, flexible colonoscope
inserted into your rectum. The procedure is similar to a flexible
sigmoidoscopy, although the instrument is longer so that your doctor can
view your entire colon. This procedure can be somewhat uncomfortable, so
you may be given intravenous medication to ease the discomfort (conscious
To detect cancer and growths (polyps) on the inside wall of your
colon that may become cancerous.
Not everyone needs to be tested for precancerous polyps and
colorectal cancer. Your need for screening depends on your level of risk.
Three major factors place you at a higher level of risk of colorectal
- Age 50 or older
- Family or personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
If you're 50 or older and at average risk, the American Cancer Society
recommends that you follow one of these five recommendations:
- Yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Yearly FOBT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
If you're at higher risk, the American Cancer Society suggests talking
with your doctor about earlier or more frequent screening.
Prostate cancer screening test
What is it?
During the digital rectal exam (DRE), your doctor inserts a
lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum, feels the prostate gland, and
checks for any lumps or firmness in the prostate. The prostate-specific
antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the amount of a protein
secreted by the prostate gland. The two tests are complementary, but there
remains some controversy about the use of the PSA test.
DRE can detect prostate enlargement or prostate cancer. Don't be
alarmed if your doctor tells you that your prostate gland is enlarged. More
than half the men older than age 50 have an enlarged prostate caused by a
noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
With the PSA test, high levels of PSA may indicate prostate cancer.
However, levels can be elevated by BPH or other noncancerous conditions as
The American Cancer Society suggests that you consider a yearly
digital rectal exam and PSA test if you are 50 years of age or older.
Consider screening at an earlier age if you are black or have a family
history of prostate cancer.
What is it?
An examination of your testicles for masses or any change in size,
shape or consistency of the testes.
To detect testicular cancer, the most common malignancy in American
men between the ages of 15 and 35.
Your doctor should check your testicles whenever you have a
physical exam. Men of all ages, starting in the midteenage years, should
examine their testicles monthly.
Sexually transmitted disease screening tests
What are they?
Screening tests to detect infections spread by sexual contact
(sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) such as the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV), gonorrhea, genital herpes and chlamydia.
Many of these diseases have serious, sometimes fatal,
Sexually active teens and young adults are at highest risk, but
STDs can affect all age groups. Your doctor can determine whether you need
STD screening tests based on your personal risk factors. Those who are at
increased risk of infection include:
- People who have had multiple sex partners, especially those who have
exchanged sex for money or drugs
- Males who have sex with males
- Injection drug users and their sex partners
What is it?
Your dentist examines your teeth and gums with a probe and small
mirror. He or she usually checks your tongue, lips and soft tissues.
To detect tooth decay and oral cancer, check your bite and
determine if you have problems such as grinding your teeth or problems with
your jaw joint.
The American Dental Association recommends that you have regular
What is it?
You read eye charts and have your pupils dilated with eyedrops. The
ophthalmologist or optometrist checks your eye movement, peripheral vision,
color vision and the sharpness (acuity) of your eyesight. He or she also
views the inside of your eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope
and, using a painless procedure called tonometry, measure the pressure
inside your eyeball.
To determine whether you need glasses or contacts and to identify
new vision problems. Common vision problems include:
- Glaucoma. Increased pressure in your eye, which can
lead to vision loss
- Macular degeneration. Deterioration of retinal cells,
which gradually decreases vision
- Cataracts. Clouding of the clear lens of your eye,
which blurs vision
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends screening once
between the ages of 20 and 39, every 2 to 4 years between the ages of 40 and
64, and every one to two years after age 65. If you wear corrective lenses,
talk with your doctor about how frequently you should have an eye exam.
What is it?
Your doctor checks your speech and sound recognition at various
To check for hearing loss.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends
screening at least every decade through age 50 and every 3 years after age
50. Ask your doctor how often you need your hearing checked.
These tests may or may not be part of routine medical exams. Your doctor
may recommend them based on your signs and symptoms, risk factors, age and
For this test, a technician places electrodes on your chest, arms
and legs to pick up and record electrical impulses from your heart. An ECG
can detect abnormalities such as heart damage after a heart attack, an
irregular heart rhythm or an enlarged heart. In certain instances your
doctor may recommend it as part of a health exam — for instance, if you're
at increased risk of heart disease or have a medical condition such as high
During a chest X-ray, your body is placed between an X-ray camera
and a piece of X-ray film. Your doctor will probably request a forward view
and a side view. Chest X-rays reveal the size and shape of your heart and
the condition of your lungs, which can help your doctor detect heart or lung
disease. Your doctor may recommend it as part of a health exam if you are
short of breath, have a cough or chest pain, or if your doctor needs to see
the size of your heart.
Blood chemistry test
This test measures substances such as sodium, potassium, calcium,
phosphorus and blood sugar, as well as liver enzymes, bilirubin and
creatinine. A blood chemistry test can provide information about how well
organs such as your liver and kidneys are working. It can also detect
Complete blood count (CBC) with
This test measures:
- Hemoglobin — amount determines oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood
- Hematocrit — percentage of blood volume made up of red blood cells
- White blood cells — number and type
- Platelets — number
A CBC can help detect the presence of many conditions, including anemia,
infections and leukemia.
Fasting blood sugar test
This is a test that measures the level of sugar (glucose) in your
blood after an 8-hour fast. High glucose levels can be an indication of
diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends that if you're 45 or
older that you have your blood glucose level checked every 3 years. If
you're at risk of diabetes, your doctor may test you at a younger age or
more frequently. Also get this test if you have signs and symptoms of
diabetes, such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight
loss, fatigue or slow-healing cuts or bruises.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test
This is a blood test for levels of TSH, a hormone made by the
pituitary gland in your brain, which stimulates your thyroid to produce the
hormone thyroxine. A TSH test can detect whether your thyroid produces too
little thyroxine (hypothyroidism) or too much (hyperthyroidism).
Transferrin saturation test
This blood test measures the amount of iron bound to transferrin,
an iron-carrying protein in your bloodstream. This test can detect
hemochromatosis, also called iron-overload disease, a condition in which
your body absorbs too much iron. Hemochromatosis is an under-recognized but
treatable hereditary disease. When left untreated, it can lead to diabetes,
arthritis, heart disease or liver disease. Doctors don't regularly test for
hemochromatosis, but talk with your doctor if you have a brother, sister,
parent, child or other close relative with hemochromatosis or if you have
one of the following conditions that can be caused by hemochromatosis:
- Joint disease
- Severe and continuing fatigue
- Heart disease
- Elevated liver enzymes
This is a test to find out what's in your urine. Analyzing what's
in your urine may reveal a medical problem. Sugar (glucose), for instance,
suggests diabetes. White blood cells may indicate the presence of an
infection. Red blood cells may signal a tumor or disorder of the kidneys,
ureter or bladder. Elevated bilirubin may suggest liver disease.
To check for skin cancer, your doctor examines your skin from head
to toe, looking for moles that are irregularly shaped, have varied colors,
are asymmetric, are greater than the size of a pencil eraser, or have grown
or changed since your last visit. The American Cancer Society recommends you
have a skin exam every 3 years if you're between the ages of 20 and 40 and
every year if you're age 40 or older.
Regular preventive exams help your doctor assess your overall health and
risk factors for disease. By learning what's normal for you early on, you'll
be able to detect any serious changes later. This information can help you
decide what lifestyle changes you may need to make to prevent or reduce your
risk of disease.