Maintenance is necessary for your car to function at its best. So when the “check engine” light flashes on your dashboard, you might feel a sense of dread, but you also feel a sense of urgency to take care of it.
Your body is much the same—it’s important not to ignore the signals it sends and to get annual check-ups. June is Men’s Health Month, and a great time to make an appointment with your health care professional. At your visit, be sure to discuss your risk of cancer. Nearly 871,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer in 2019. There’s no owner’s manual for your body, but read on to get a jumpstart on what you need to know about common cancers in men.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men, particularly among African Americans. Older age and family history are also risk factors. Symptoms usually don’t occur until the disease advances and may include weak urine flow, frequent urination, blood in the urine or a burning sensation while urinating. There are pros and cons to screening, so beginning at age 50 (or 45 if you have a close family history or are African American), talk to your health care professional about whether screening is right for you.
Although still one of the most common cancers in men, lung cancer rates are declining thanks to fewer people smoking. Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer, but exposure to toxic substances—such as arsenic, radon and asbestos—and secondhand smoke can also increase risk. Symptoms include persistent cough, chest pain and worsening shortness of breath. It is recommended that current or former smokers with 30 pack-year histories be screened.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers among both men and women.
Screening—recommended for adults beginning at age 45 (or earlier with family or personal
history)—can detect pre-cancerous polyps (small growths on the lining of the colon or rectum), which can be removed or monitored to prevent cancer from ever occurring. Symptoms like blood in the stool, changes in bowel movements or abdominal cramps usually don’t arise until the disease advances.
This is only a glance under the hood when it comes to cancer in men. As with a car, preventive maintenance goes a long way. You can reduce your risk of cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. To learn more about cancer prevention and early detection, visit www.preventcancer.org.
Nicole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program®. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.