Cancer affects men in all walks of life and doesn’t discriminate by age. One in two men will develop some type of cancer in his lifetime. Even for cancers typically diagnosed in later years, like lung cancer, prevention begins early.
The reluctance of many men to visit a doctor or undergo annual physical examinations prevents their best chances for early cancer detection and effective treatment. Every year, more than 300,000 men in the United States and nearly 45,000 in Texas alone lose their lives to cancer. A few of the most common kinds of cancer among men are prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Lifestyle habits contribute to your future health, so limiting risky behaviors and jumpstarting good ones is extremely important. If you’re a man, statistics indicate you’re more likely to smoke, drink, and carry excess weight, all of which increase cancer risk.
You can take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk by following some simple guidelines.
Go See Your Doctor – Regularly
There’s a certain bold stubbornness some men tend to exude when someone — like a spouse or loved one — suggests how to spend their free time, not to mention seeing a doctor. But your loved ones actually are trying to save your life. You should establish a relationship with your doctor and make appointments for regular physical exams and screenings.
Not Every Man Gets Prostate Cancer
For most men, prostate cancer has the highest awareness rate – and that’s a good thing. It’s the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. for men, and is often called “the silent killer” because it often shows no symptoms. However, a prostate cancer diagnosis is by no means a death sentence, thanks to advanced treatments and increasing awareness of screening.
Men should discuss with their physicians the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening to make an informed decision about testing. Most men should consider regular prostate screenings beginning at age 50. Men at high risk (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer before age 65) should consider testing beginning at age 45. Consider screening at age 40 if more than one first-degree relative is diagnosed before 65. Prostate screenings can include:
- The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test measures levels of a protein produced by the prostate. Higher PSA levels indicate a higher likelihood you have cancer but other reasons may elevate PSA levels.
- The DRE (digital rectal exam) also tests for prostate cancer.
Avoid Tobacco in Any Form
Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in Texas. Only 15 percent of men lung cancer patients live more than five years beyond their initial diagnosis. Tobacco smoke is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, as it is thought to cause most lung cancer deaths. The more a person is exposed to smoke, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer.
Texas Oncology physician assistant Christa A. Palmer, MPAS, PA-C (left) and nurse practitioner Sylvia Rodriguez, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC (right) are joining others by wearing blue ties to symbolize the importance of encouraging the men in our lives to make healthy life choices. Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services and Texas Oncology recognize the pivotal role women play in men’s health decisions and encourage everyone to join the cause and Wear One for Your Sweetie on Friday, June 16 to increase awareness of the importance of men’s health.
Check Your Colon
Colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and is among the most difficult to detect, because it lacks symptoms in early stages. Men may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer through a regular exercise schedule and a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods while limiting high-fat foods, red meat, and alcohol consumption.
Starting at age 50, men should also discuss the most appropriate screening test with your physician. If you have a higher risk, based on your family history, your doctor may recommend starting screening earlier. There are a number of screening tests used to diagnose colon cancer, including:
- Annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT).
- Every three years – stool DNA test
- Every five years – a flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema.
- Every 10 years – a colonoscopy or every five years, a virtual colonoscopy.
Self-Exams are Crucial
You should self-check your testicles for any pain, discomfort, or abnormal lumps monthly. Testicular cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men ages 20 to 39. If treated early, testicular cancer patients have a 99 percent survival rate after five years.
Most cases of testicular cancer are initially identified by the patient, making self-observation critical to early detection.
Hit the Gym
If you’re overweight, you have an increased risk of colon, kidney, and esophageal cancer (not to mention other cancers and non-cancerous health issues). The American Cancer Society recommends that average, healthy adults participate in a minimum of 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise throughout the week to maintain health and reduce the risk of disease, including cancer.
Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but limits your intake of red meat or high-fat foods. A high-fat diet and obesity raise your risk for numerous cancers and many other health issues.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
You should limit your alcohol intake to the equivalent of no more than two drinks per day. The American Cancer Society links alcohol consumption to an increased risk of several cancers including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
Regular screenings and a healthy lifestyle are essential to help avoid debilitating cancer and increase the chances of that person living longer with a higher quality of life.