Many men delay or avoid visiting their doctor for an annual checkup. It’s a simple, essential step to maintain health, but men skip for a variety of reasons.
Women, on the other hand, are much more likely to visit a doctor for routine examinations. Their well woman exams usually begin at age 21, and continue annually. Girls in their late teens will come in to discuss abnormal menstrual periods or birth control initiation.
Men, in many cases, finish their immunizations as grade-schoolers and avoid a doctor unless it’s an emergency situation. That inactivity can stretch for decades.
“We’re trying to change that narrative,” said Dr. Carmen Robinson, a physician at Novant Health Clemmons Family Medicine. “If you get sick, we want to get you better. But if we can prevent people from getting sick in the first place, that’s ideal.”
Robinson suggests a basic checklist of screenings that all men should have. Almost all of them can be done during an annual physical exam:
During your 20s and 30s
“It’s a good time to catch things before they become difficult to treat,” Robinson said. “You want to do it before those things turn into larger problems.”
- Weight check
- Blood pressure check
- HIV screening
- Syphilis screening (men who have sex with men, have multiple partners, or have a new partner)
- Depression screening
- Alcohol, smoking and substance abuse screening
NOTE: if there are risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, or a family history of cardiovascular disease, you will screen for diabetes and cholesterol in this age group.
During your 40s
- All of the same screenings you had during your 20s and 30s.
- Diabetes screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Prostate cancer (black men, family history of prostate cancer)
During your 50s
- All of the same screenings you had through your 40s, plus:
- Prostate cancer screening
NOTE: The prostate cancer screening test was formerly given to all men at 50, regardless of risk, but that has changed. The caveats: Get screened earlier than 50 if you have a primary relative with prostate cancer, if you have erectile dysfunction symptoms, problems with urination or if you just want to get the screening. If the primary relative was diagnosed in his 50s or younger, then your first screening will be 10 years earlier than his age of diagnosis.
- Colorectal cancer screening
NOTE: Every man should be screened (through a colonoscopy) beginning at 50. But if you have a primary relative with colon cancer, your first screening should be 10 years younger than the age your relative was diagnosed. Example: If your father was diagnosed when he was 52, you should begin screenings at 42.
- Hepatitis C screening
NOTE: If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you need a one-time screening.
- Lung cancer screening
NOTE: Men ages 55 to 80 are screened if they have a 30 pack-year smoking history (a pack-year = number of packs per day x total number of years smoked), if you still smoke or if you’ve quit during the past 15 years. The test is a low-dose CAT scan of your lungs.
During your 60s and 70s
- All of the same screenings you had through your 50s, plus:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
NOTE: Men ages 65 to 75, if they’ve ever smoked, should be screened (it’s via ultrasound).
- “Falls” prevention screening
NOTE: During your annual physical exam beginning at age 65, you’re asked questions about whether you’ve fallen, the frequency and level of injury, if any.
“It’s not a sign of weakness or a lack of masculinity to go to your doctor,” Robinson said. “Take care of yourself. Set an example for your family and your children.