with Williamson Medical Center
Your annual physical generally includes a standard battery of screenings, from checking your blood pressure levels to checking for diabetes and cholesterol. But what other screenings might be necessary for your overall health and wellness? June is Men’s Health Month, so we are looking at a few additional screenings you may want to talk about with your healthcare provider.
While melanoma is a less common form of skin cancer, it is much more likely to affect men and can quickly spread to other parts of the body if it is not caught and treated early. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 60,000 men will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2022. Dr. Don Patterson, who practices internal medicine at Williamson Medical Group, suggests wearing sunscreen, using barrier protection such as long sleeves and solid hats, and limiting your exposure to UV rays to protect against melanoma. But, also make sure to keep an eye on your skin, noting any changes to moles, freckles and other marks. Note any abnormalities and ask your physician for a skin exam as part of your annual physical.
“Most patients are familiar with a colon cancer screening,” Patterson said, “but some of my patients have not been aware that you need to start those screenings at age forty-five rather than fifty.” According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancers are the third leading cause of cancer death in men. Routine annual testing is one of the most effective ways of preventing colon and rectal cancer. In addition, screening can help doctors detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting American men after skin cancer and most commonly affects older men. “But prostate cancer is a very treatable, curable disease if detected early,” Patterson said. Your doctor can perform several screenings to look for possible signs of prostate cancer, including a digital/rectal exam. Still, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the most common. If these screenings point to cancer, your healthcare provider may perform a biopsy to confirm. While the exams can seem similar, Patterson cautioned patients not to confuse prostate exams with colonoscopies. “Some of my patients conflate colonoscopies and prostate exams,” he said. “Even if you have had a colonoscopy, you still need to consider a prostate cancer screening.”
A calcium-score screening heart test detects calcium deposits in the coronary arteries, which can restrict blood flow to the muscles of your heart. The scan often helps to identify possible heart disease before you develop symptoms. “People can have heart disease and not know it,” Patterson said. “This scan allows doctors to see the calcium in your arteries, even if you do not have symptoms. It has helped detect heart disease in highly trained professional athletes who probably would not have been picked up otherwise.”
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. “Sleep apnea is more than just snoring,” Patterson said. “Because the body is deprived of oxygen, sleep apnea can contribute to heart failure, weight gain, diabetes and more. It is more serious than most people think.” If you snore loudly, gasp during sleep or notice extreme daytime tiredness, even after a full night’s sleep, you may want to talk with your physician about a sleep study.
While blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings should already be a regular part of your annual check-up, you might consider talking with your doctor about all these additional screenings to ensure optimum overall health.
Ready to schedule your screenings? To find a physician, visit Williamson Medical Group at williamsonmedicalcenter.org.