Cancer screenings play an important role in cancer prevention. Screenings may not prevent people from getting cancer, but they can detect the presence of cancer before a person begins to experience any signs or symptoms. Screenings also can help doctors catch cancer before it metastasizes, or spreads, to areas of the body outside the area where it originated.
Many women get routine mammograms to detect for breast cancer, but women are not the only ones who should include cancer screenings in their healthcare routines. Men also can benefit from screenings, discussing the pros and cons of each with their physicians during routine health examinations.
• Colon cancer: Men should begin getting screened for colon cancer at age 50, though those with family histories of colon cancer or other colon issues should begin even earlier, as family history increases a man’s risk of developing colon cancer. Colon cancer screenings may discover a type of growth known as a polyp, which is typically benign and can be removed before it develops into cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that men have various options to choose from with regard to screening for colon cancer. Such options include a colonoscopy, a stool DNA test and a camera pill. Speak to your physician about these options and discuss your family history, which will influence how frequently you need to be screened for colon cancer.
• Lung cancer: Screening for lung cancer is most important for men who currently or recently smoked. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for men between the ages of 55 and 80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a man has not smoked for 15 years or has developed a health problem that substantially limits a man’s life expectancy or his ability or willingness to undergo curative lung surgery. (Note: Pack-year history is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked.) The ACS notes that the risks associated with lung cancer screenings typically outweigh the benefits for men who have never smoked or quit long ago.
• Prostate cancer: The National Cancer Institute notes that prostate cancer is the most common nonskin cancer among men in the United States. Being 50 years of age, black and/or having a brother, son or father who had prostate cancer increase a man’s risk of developing the disease. The NCI notes that screening tests for prostate cancer, which include a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen test, come with risks, and men should discuss these risks and the potential benefits of prostate cancer screenings before deciding to be screened.
Cancer screenings can detect cancer in its earliest stages, and as men get older, they should discuss their screening options with their physicians.