Being Well

Male-Only Cancers: How Preventive Screenings Can Help

Getting a screening schedule or seeing a doctor about male-only cancer symptoms can lead to an early diagnosis and good outcomes.

According to a study in the BMC Family Practice journal, men are less likely than women to visit a doctor, even when symptoms start to appear. But no matter how reluctant you feel, it’s always important to prioritize your health, especially for cancer screenings. Not all male-only cancers have formal screening procedures, which means you can check yourself in the privacy of your own home for many of them. Here’s what to know about these three cancers that only affect men.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men. However, whether to test for this in all men is up for debate. Before getting screened for prostrate cancer, you should know your risk factors, including family history and lifestyle.

According to the American Cancer Society, if you’re at average risk, meaning you eat healthy, don’t smoke, and have no family history of prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about whether to get screened at age 50. African American men tend to have higher rates of the disease and should start the conversation closer to age 45. Men with more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer should bring up screening even earlier, closer to 40.

During a screening, you’ll receive a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your body. You may also need a digital rectal exam as part of the screening process. Based on your PSA levels, your doctor will recommend a screening schedule that aligns with your risk.

Testicular Cancer Screening

Testicular cancer typically occurs in younger men, ages 15 to 45. We commonly associate cancer with older people, so it may be easy to miss this one. There’s no formal screening test for testicular cancer; it’s up to you to regularly check yourself. The first sign is usually a lump or swelling in the testicles. The lump may be painful, but usually it’s not.

The good news is that most often a lump isn’t cancer, but a bacterial infection or some other issue. But to be safe, have a doctor check out any lumps or swelling. Most testicular cancers can be cured when found before they spread.

Penile Cancer Screening

Like testicular cancer, penile is another male-only cancer without a formal screening process. It usually starts in the skin and is found early, which contributes to high survival rates. You’ll want to check yourself regularly and look for any skin changes like redness, growths, white patches or sores. Many times, the new spot on the skin doesn’t hurt. Sometimes, penile cancer can cause swelling at the end of the penis or swollen lymph nodes in the groin if it has spread. Any changes should warrant a call to your doctor to make sure everything is fine or to receive treatment early.

Penile cancer can also begin under the foreskin, which can be a little harder to catch early. Perform regular checks to look for skin changes or swelling. When caught early, penile cancer can be removed with little to no damage to the penis.

Although it may be a little uncomfortable or embarrassing, getting checked out as soon as you notice any early signs of cancer leads to the best outcomes. Once cancer spreads, treatment becomes more complex. So take time monthly or quarterly to do a brief self-exam.

Be diligent with self-exams, and make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any symptoms that could be cancer.

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Patricia Chaney
Patricia Chaney