Tests every man over 35 should take
What you need to know:
- Medical tests are a powerful way to maintain the status of your health. By avoiding doctors, men rob themselves of the chance of an early diagnosis and treatment.
Getting the right screening test at the right time is one of the best things a man can do for his health. Unfortunately, not so many voluntarily go for the screenings.
Fred Kato, a 56 year-old businessman, says he fears going for screening because the tests are costly. He also fears being told that he is sick yet he is the sole provider for his family.
“I feel healthy and strong. There is no need for me to go to the hospital when I am not sick. Besides, some tests are invasive. One day I went to the hospital for a prostate checkup and I was referred to a young girl (nurse) for counselling. I was not comfortable with this so I left,” he says.
There are several reasons why men have poor health seeking behaviour. Most men consider falling ill a sign of vulnerability and weakness. They believe people will perceive them as weak if they visit a doctor.
Dr Vincent Karuhanga, a general physician, says most men are afraid of some diagnostic and treatment procedures such as colonoscopy and tests for prostate, which can be quite uncomfortable. Fertility problems and erectile dysfunction are quite sensitive issues for men and they usually shy away from discussing such matters.
According to research, women go for checkups more often because they understand their health better than men. Men also need to understand that the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
Late diagnosis, says Dr Fred Okuku, an oncologist at Uganda Cancer Institute, means the disease has advanced, sometimes irreversible and expensive to treat. There is also loss of productivity and inability to provide for the family.
According to Dr Okuku, prostate cancer is the leading cause of death among men in Uganda yet so many of them do not present with any signs and symptoms of the disease. He, therefore, advises men above 45 years of age (since they are prone to an enlarged prostate) to go for a prostate check. When the prostate enlarges, it places pressure on the bladder and the urethra, which can causes urinary problems.
“At stage one and two, the cancer is curable yet only 10 percent of the patients come at the early stages. Stage three and four are late stages and because the disease does not present with any signs in the early stages, most patients come when it is already too late,” Dr Okuku says.
If a man has a family history of cancer, is above 45 years of age and has an enlarged prostate, the following tests will be done;
•Prostate Specific Antigen test (PSA) is a test where a blood sample is taken from a man for analysis to measure the level of PSA in the blood.
•A digital rectal exam is done where the doctor inserts a finger in the rectum to feel the prostate. If it feels like a hard irregular stone, it is likely one has cancer.
•A trans-rectal and abdominal ultra-sound scan can also be done to confirm prostate cancer.
•A biopsy is another confirmatory test for the cancer. A sample can be taken from the prostate or the swollen lymph nodes for examination.
This uncommon cancer is usually seen in men aged 20-54. It can be treated, especially if caught early. Testicular exams are typically part of a man’s routine check-up. Doctors recommend that men take a few minutes every month to do self-exams to look and feel for any hard lumps or nodules (smooth rounded masses) or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of one’s testicles.
Chances of getting high blood pressure are tied to age, weight, and lifestyle according to Dr Karuhanga. Above 35 years of age, many people have high blood pressure and do not know it.
Blood pressure readings give the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and the pressure between the beats. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over less than 80 (<120/<80) mm Hg.
This disease is treatable, and changing your diet and exercise habits is recommended. If not treated, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually damages the optic nerve and may lead to blindness with age. Glaucoma is caused by high pressure within the eye. However, other eye diseases also come with age.
“It is, therefore, important to find and treat glaucoma and other eye problems before they damage the optic nerve thereby leading to blindness. Eye tests for glaucoma and other eye problems are based on age and personal risk and this determines the frequency of these tests,” he says.
If you younger than 40 (every two to four years), 40-54 (one to three years), 55-64 (one to two years), 65 and above (six to12 months).
With age comes weight gain for many men, a risk factor for diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina, nerve damage, and impotence. It is also important to eat a balanced diet, engage in exercise, and plan to lose weight in order to manage diabetes.
“A glucose test is done in a fasting state. Healthy adults should have the test every three years starting at age 45. Some people, including those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, should start testing earlier and more often,” Dr Karuhanga advises.
HIV is the virus that causes Aids and treatment can keep HIV infection from turning into Aids. When one is screened early, the disease can be treated with ARVs giving one a chance of living productively.