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Dr. D’s June 2021 Medical Update

With Father’s Day happening in June, this month has been declared Men’s Health Month by multiple organizations. When it comes to men’s health, there are a couple of conditions that are of particular interest: prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. Approximately 1 in 8 men will be affected by prostate cancer and there will be almost 250,000 cases and over 34,000 deaths in 2021. The cancer is rare under 40 and the most common age at diagnosis is 66. That said, prostate cancer is survivable if diagnosed early. If the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis, the survival rate drops to just 31%.

Screening for prostate cancer begins with a simple blood test, a prostate specific antigen (PSA). The guidelines for screening have changed over the years. Currently, the recommendation is to offer testing to men from 55 to 69 after discussing the risks and benefits of screening. There are false positives with testing—an abnormal result when there is no cancer. Following up tests can result in unwanted effects like incontinence or impotence. Therefore, it is critical to have a thorough discussion with your physician. Your doctor will know how to interpret your PSA results and walk you through the next steps. Sometimes that is treating an infection, repeating the test in 6 to 8 weeks, or refer to urology for evaluation.

Testicular cancer is not as common as prostate cancer, but it is still something men need to know about. In 2021, there will be an estimated 9,470 cases in the United States. Overall, 1 in 250 males will have testicular cancer in their lifetime. Unlike prostate cancer, testicular cancer is more common in young men. The average age at diagnosis is 33. Testicular cancer is survivable, with only 1 in about 5,000 cases resulting in death.

Screening for testicular cancer does not have an official recommendation, but it is easy enough to do that men should consider performing a self-exam after puberty. Talk with your doctor about the screening methods and what to look for during an exam. In short, men should check for lumps, bumps, or any change in their testicles.

Along with these male-specific conditions, it is still important to remember that men also need colon cancer screening. New recommendations have screening beginning at 45 years old. Higher-risk patients should be screened with a colonoscopy, while lower-risk patients are eligible for less invasive screening like stool cards. As always, talk with your physician about the screening that is right for you.

Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.