Routine Exams and Screenings for Men: A Comprehensive Guide
When it comes to overall health for men, we know routine, preventative care is important. It’s about keeping your body in the best condition possible, so you can stay active and strong. Common risks or complications that arise throughout your life can be identified, treated early or downright avoided with preventative care. Routine physical exams and screenings help you and your doctors have as clear a picture of your health as possible.
However, typically, men are more reluctant than women to visit their doctors for routine screenings and physical exams. In fact, nearly 60% of men don’t see a doctor regularly, only going if they are seriously ill. “I look good, I feel good, therefore I’m probably good” is a comforting thought for sure, but it doesn’t consider your inner health (and let’s just agree to forget about “what I don’t know can’t hurt me”). This mentality can have negative side effects of preventing early detection. And, as we know, routine exams and screenings are the key to early detection, which is the best way to improve condition treatment and management.
The first step toward preventative healthcare for men is the annual physical exam.
The physical exam: the first step
The reasons for visiting your primary care provider or a specialist for a routine physical exam change over time. When you’re younger, they’re to assess your growth and developing body. During young adulthood, spaced-out physical exams (usually every 3-5 years) help keep an eye on your maturing body and that you’re remaining healthy and making good wellness choices. When you hit middle age (around your early 40s), the priorities shift slightly, and physical exams also start including screening for markers or signs of commonplace complications men face as they age.
So, what is your primary care provider or a specialist looking for during these exams? These change as you age, as well; however there are standard metrics your doctor assesses, including:
- Blood pressure
- Height, weight and body mass index (BMI)
- Testicle health
Furthermore, it is recommended that every man also have his vision and skin checked either by his primary care provider during a routine physical exam or by a specialist—such as an optometrist or dermatologist.
These metrics help paint a consistent, overall picture of your physical health and also help your doctor keep track of your body’s development as you age. Your doctor will likely ask you questions about lifestyle changes as well, especially those that may impact mental and psychological health. It is important to talk about any changes in your life with your doctor, so they can provide the most accurate care.
Your physical exam will start to include additional screenings for as you age. And they should start earlier than you might think.
Routine screenings—like bloodwork—enable preventative care
Overall health begins with your blood. It is perhaps the most essential substance in your body and is responsible for ferrying live-sustaining oxygen everywhere in your body.
Along the way, it is recommended to receive routine blood work during physical exam visits. You may even be able to get your blood work done before going into your doctor’s office. Routine blood work is used to check in on levels like your metabolism and cholesterol and lipid levels and to flag any areas that may need attention or further testing.
The most common blood tests that doctors order for your yearly exam are:
You can get these tests through your doctor or purchase them directly from Labcorp OnDemand. We offer a Men’s Health Test that includes all the routine bloodwork ordered by your doctor.
We also offer a number of individual blood tests—like a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel Test, a Complete Blood Count and a Total Testosterone Test if you are monitoring specific levels over time.
Routine screenings enable specific preventative care
When you’re younger, your doctor may speak to you about routine screenings based on your health as you age. Age-based screenings are an important piece to the puzzle of overall health. And they begin fairly early during young adulthood.
Screening for STIs
If you’re a sexually active young adult (18-25 years old), or you’re a sexually active adult with new partners (typically over 25 years old), you can—and probably should—receive annual screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The two most common STIs—chlamydia and gonorrhea—are easily transmissible during sexual intercourse without proper protection. Left undetected or untreated, both can have tremendously negative impacts on your health, including especially your genitals, rectum and throat. Your primary care provider can conduct screenings for the infections, or you can get a Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomoniasis Test on your own with results sent privately to you.
Screening for STIs Quick Guide
You should get screened:
- Annually, if you’re 18-25 years old and sexually active
- Annually, if you’re 25 or older with new or multiple sexual partners
Screening for colon cancer
Colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., but it is highly preventable with screening. Catching colon cancer early gives you a survival chance of 91%. Screening is strongly recommended for men over 45 years old, earlier if there is a family history.
There are multiple different types of ways to screen for colon cancer. The most common, and generally considered the gold-standard,is a colonoscopy, although it is a procedure and requires both a day of preparation (to clean out your digestive tract) and some form of anesthesia.
If you are of average risk, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a screening test that you can take in the comfort of your own home. It is designed to catch any bleeding in your digestive tract, a key marker of potential colon cancer. It requires no preparation or thick liquid drinks, as are required for a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, more comprehensive, diagnostic tests your doctor may order if there are any irregularities with the screening or if you are considered to be a higher risk due to family history or other factors.
For the FIT, typically, you will be supplied with a kit to use at home. All you have to do is follow instructions provided with the kit to collect a stool sample and then either mail or return it to your primary care provider, specialist or lab. A FIT test will indicate whether or not further testing, like a colonoscopy is needed.
Learn more about FIT testing and if it is right for you.
Screening for prostate cancer and osteoporosis
Passing 50 is a milestone. Culturally, it usually signifies middle age. As we know, more potential complications arise as you age, and 50 is a benchmark for more extensive screening and tests because of this.
One of the potential side effects of aging is loss of bone density. Osteoporosis causes your bones to weaken and become more susceptible to fracture, especially the bones in the wrists, hip and spine. And a loss of bone density also may be due to a loss of testosterone during hormonal therapy to treat prostate cancer.
Your primary care provider or a specialist conducts a prostate screening as a part of normal, routine healthcare for men over 50. If cancer is detected and hormonal therapy is utilized, loss of bone density may occur, and this can lead to osteoporosis. Your doctor can also screen for osteoporosis by using bone markers or bone mineral density screenings, both of which our labs are prepared to assess with expedient results.
Screening for chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Your bones aren’t the only body parts susceptible to aging. It can also take a toll on your organs, which is why routine screening for chronic kidney disease (CKD) is recommended after 60. CKD causes the gradual loss of function in your kidneys, which play a vital role in cleaning your blood and removing waste. If your kidneys suffer reduced function, waste products build up in your body, causing potentially irreparable harm. And frustratingly, early stage signs or markers of CKD usually manifest as very few symptoms, if any.
Luckily, a simple blood and urine test—available through your doctor or directly through Labcorp OnDemand —can help assess your overall kidney health. And, like always, the earlier you know, the more you and your doctor can help manage your disease.
Regular immunizations provide support to help curtail, dampen or prevent known diseases like the flu and, in recent years, COVID-19. It is recommended that you receive your COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots to help keep you safe and prevent further spread of the disease (just as we do every year with the flu). And, after 50, it may be recommended that you receive your shingles vaccine to help prevent that very painful and invasive disease.
Talk to your doctor about the immunizations that are right for you. These may change based on your age and when you received your last shot.
We’re here to help facilitate your overall health
At the end of the day, your overall health is in your hands. It’s up to you to stay connected to your doctor and get the testing you need. The conversations with your doctor add to the growing tapestry of monitoring and maintaining your health.
Knowing what’s going on with your health is an integral factor in living a long, healthy life. Half of knowledge is knowing where to find knowledge, then following age-based recommendations for a routine physical is a great start. Start by downloading our routine health checklists that outline the types of screenings you may need by gender and age. These can help you prepare for conversations with your doctor. You’ll also become aware of all the options available.
We are here to help you get the information and answers you need in your overall health journey. As a pioneer in science and testing for 50+ years, Labcorp is trusted by doctors and hospitals for your screening and diagnostic testing.
You can get our tests through your doctor or on your own through Labcorp OnDemand. If you use one of our many screening options, you can share your results with your doctor or primary healthcare provider so they can best determine the right path forward for you.
We hope you join us to Make Way for Better by taking our pledge to get back to health. We will provide resources to help and checklists to guide you in taking more control over your well-being.