The one test every man should have

June 16, 2021

Dr. Mark E. Head with Clark Primary Care

Men can be notorious for procrastinating when it comes to scheduling an annual checkup, but Dr. Mark Edward Head with Clark Primary Care says not making the appointment can be detrimental. “Annual checkups are important because so many disease processes aren’t overtly disabling, like high blood pressure and diabetes,” he says. “Some of these chronic illnesses can fly under the radar for quite a while, and it is important that we screen for those before they cause long-term damage.”

A major part of a man’s annual checkup — which involves checking the eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, and heart — is the prostate screening. Dr. Head’s practice screens men over age 50 and younger men if they have a family history of prostate cancer. During the screening, the doctor will give the patient a prostate specific antigen blood test (PSA) to measure their levels of PSA — a factor in determining the presence of prostate cancer. The patient also will undergo a quick digital rectal exam, which helps detect any abnormalities.

Although prostate problems are common for most men beginning in their 50s, Dr. Head says there are some things men can do to keep their prostate healthy and maintain good health overall:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Get screened — not only for prostate cancer but for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and colon cancer. “I am not an advocate of one [screening] over the other. All of these are important,” Dr. Head says.
  • Know your family history for prostate cancer.
  • Pay attention to symptoms. “Are you getting up at night to urinate? Are you having hesitancy or frequency? Are you having pain? Are you experiencing any urinary infections? This is relatively rare in most men, but if they have an infection, that is a sign of potential prostate problems.”

Getting screened, Dr. Head says, is a simple preventative measure without a downside. “Some people never make it in, and most insurances don’t require a copay to get a physical, so there is no reason to avoid it,” he says. “Some people put it off out of fear and assume they are going to get bad news, but most people get good news.”