Undergoing testing for cancer can be uncomfortable, tedious and invasive. But it’s crucial for your well-being. While all genders are acutely aware of the importance of these screenings, men have a tendency to hold off on procedures.
A 2011 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that “men and women believed cancer screenings were effective, though a higher percentage of men had never had a past [cancer screening]. Men were less willing to participate.”
However, the study also found that men’s willingness to participate in screenings increased when they were informed of procedures’ details beforehand. At Cancer Wellness, we understand the power of knowledge. To better inform our male readers, here’s a rundown of some common cancer screenings, less invasive options and what they all entail.
Beginning at 45, the American Cancer Society recommends men undergo regular screenings to detect colon and rectal cancer. One of the most common (and often dreaded) methods to do so is a colonoscopy every 10 years.
A new version of this procedure is the virtual colonoscopy. It consists of an X-ray examination of the colon that uses low dose computed tomography. If you are a candidate for this option, you’ll undergo a virtual colonoscopy every five years. No pain medicine or anesthesia is needed, it’s less invasive and it takes less time than a conventional colonoscopy.
You’ll limit your diet to clear liquids for a day or two before the examination, as well as be provided a laxative pill the day prior. Consuming contrast media in drink form will allow technicians to view your colon more clearly on the X-ray images. According to Johns Hopkins University, the procedure involves inserting a small tube into the anus to inflate the colon, so growths are more easily seen. You’ll enter the CT scanner face-up while hundreds of images are taken, and you can return home immediately after. The entire process takes 10–15 minutes.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test consists of a blood draw that detects changes in a certain protein created by the prostate. It is the most common way to check for prostate cancer. Depending on how high your levels are alongside your risk factors, you may be recommended to undergo this blood test anywhere from every year to every two years.
PSA tests are not a global solution to detecting prostate cancer, however. Overdiagnosis is possible, leading to unnecessary biopsies and other procedures. As of late, though, more accurate versions of the test are an option.
In 2019, the Cleveland Clinic saw FDA approval for its IsoPSA blood test, and it is now endorsed by the National Cancer Comprehensive Network (NCCN). It’s been shown to reduce unnecessary prostate biopsies by 45 percent by identifying molecular changes in PSA. If you are facing the possibility of a prostate biopsy and seeking a second opinion, IsoPSA may be the route for you.
Skin cancer poses a greater mortality risk to men than it does to women, but only 16 percent of men undergo skin checks. Self-skin checks every three months is the first step in noticing changes in your skin, and they’re less invasive than having a doctor look over your body. Still, visiting the dermatologist once a year over the age of 40 means you’ll have a professional spotter on your side.
For self-exams, use a full-length mirror to see head to toe. Check your entire body, including the hidden places like your underarms, palms, bottoms of your feet and between your toes. Use a hand mirror or enlist help to check the back, neck and scalp. Look for any new moles, spots that are irregular circles or coloring different from your other moles.
At the doctor, a skin check takes around half an hour. Yearly skin checks are typically covered by insurance plans. You can choose either a male or female dermatologist to examine your skin. A dermatoscope is used to magnify your moles for the doctor, and it is entirely painless.
Recent advancements of the dermatoscope have lessened the use of skin biopsies to determine the presence of carcinoma. Nowadays, dermoscopy can detect benign lesions without a biopsy.