This checklist is meant only as a general guideline. The tests and screenings you need depend on your individual risks, medical and genetic histories, and age. Talk with your doctor to know what you need to do to keep up your health. Your doctor can also tell you how often you should have these tests and screenings.
Many doctors follow the guidelines put forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF is the nation’s leading source of recommendations and guidelines for screening tests. Doctors also follow other recommendations, like those made by the American Cancer Society or other professional organizations.
Regular checkups. Regular checkups are a good way to keep track of your health. Your doctor can take your blood pressure, listen to your heart, weigh you and take other assessments. Sometimes, conditions that do not have noticeable symptoms, like high blood pressure, are found at a routine checkup. This is also a good time to get advice from your doctor about your diet, exercise and other steps to take. There is no consensus as to when or how often a man should go for a routine physical. Talk to your doctor about suggestions for what is right for you.
Testicular exams. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a testicular exam as part of a routine cancer related office visit. But checking yourself for testicular cancer (testicular self-exams) has not been shown to help men live longer. The ACS does not recommend testicular self-exams for all men. They do advise men who have cancer risk factors to consider a monthly testicular self-exam and to discuss this with their doctors. The USPSTF does not advise screening teens or adult men for testicular cancer if they do not have symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Cholesterol testing. The National Cholesterol Education Program currently recommends a fasting lipoprotein profile for all adults age 20 and older every five years. This test measures total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Depending on your risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may suggest more frequent testing.
Prostate cancer screening. Doctors disagree about whether routine prostate cancer screening should be done. The reason is that very small slow-growing prostate cancers may not cause a man any health problems, but treating those cancers with surgery or radiation could.
Here are two different guidelines. Talk to your doctor about them and what is best for you.
• The USPSTF does not advise for or against routine screening in men younger than age 75. The USPSTF concludes that there is currently not enough information to make a recommendation regarding screening. However, they do advise against screening men who are age 75 or older.
• The American Cancer Society recommends that doctors discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their patients. They also suggest prostate cancer screening for most men starting at age 50 and then yearly for men who do not have major medical problems and have a life expectancy of at least 10 years. Prostate screening includes both a PSA test and digital rectal exam (DRE). Yearly screening should start at age 45 for men who have a high risk for prostate cancer, including African Americans or men who have two or more first degree relatives with prostate cancer. ACS also suggests that doctors talk about screening and offer screening to certain men who are at very high risk at age 40.
Colon cancer exams. The USPSTF recommends that everyone be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until age 75 with one of the following screening tests:
• Home fecal occult blood testing
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy
The American Cancer Society guidelines also include several other tests that may be used to screen for colon cancer in some cases.
• A double contrast barium enema
• CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
• Stool DNA test
If any of these tests are positive, your doctor may advise further testing with a colonoscopy. If you have risk factors for colon cancer such as a family history, you may need earlier or more frequent screenings. Other risk factors include a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, the presence of certain polyps, certain cancers or radiation therapy. Talk to your doctor to see which screening test is right for you.
Blood pressure. Experts do not agree on how often blood pressure should be checked. But it’s probably a good idea to have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. Talk to your doctor if your blood pressure is 120/80 or higher. If you have prehypertension or high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest more frequent screenings, periodic office visits and perhaps regular blood pressure monitoring at home as well.
Aortic aneurysm. The USPSTF recommends screening for aortic aneurysm if you have ever smoked. This is a one-time test done by ultrasound between the ages of 65 to 75.
HIV testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that men get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, if:
• You are a man who has had sex with other men (after 1975). Get tested at least once a year.
• You inject illegal drugs. Get tested once a year.
Even if you think you have low risk for HIV infection, talk to your doctor about HIV screening.
Diabetes testing. The USPSTF recommends that adults who have blood pressure readings (either treated or untreated) greater than 135/80, even with no symptoms, be tested for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association’s recommended testing intervals vary slightly. They suggest testing for all people who are overweight or obese and who have any other risk factors for diabetes. Testing in people who do not have these risk factors should start at age 45. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, being inactive and having a family history of diabetes. Also, if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it is important to be tested for diabetes, because diabetes significantly raises your already higher risk of heart attack.
Obesity. You should be screened for obesity by measuring body mass index (BMI), waist circumference or both.
Dental checkups. Regular checkups with your dentist are important for dental health and even your overall health. Ask your dentist how often you should have checkups. Two visits per year for cleaning are typically advised.
Eye exam. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that after an initial comprehensive eye exam, you have your eyes checked every one to four years after age 40. Of course, this depends on your age and whether you have any health problems that could affect your eyesight. People with diabetes, diagnosed eye disorders and other medical conditions may need more frequent testing.
Skin exams. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. But most kinds of skin cancer can be cured if found and treated early. If you notice any new or changing moles or other marks on your skin or have a sore that does not heal, see your doctor right away.