With Father’s Day around the corner, millions of people across the country are planning to connect or reconnect with their fathers or other powerful people in their lives. While you’re delivering gifts, cards, or just hanging out with each other, you can also try to remind yourself: Did they pass their annual health check?
This may seem simple and obvious, but the numbers point to a problem. According to a recent study, three times as many men as women did not see a doctor in the last year, and more than half of all men did not have a medical examination in the same period. In addition, according to Harvard and Rutgers, men who “self-assess traditional views of masculinity are also less likely to receive ongoing medical care.”
This situation, which was bubbling under the surface, became more apparent during COVID; Whether we realize it or not, we are still seeing ripple effects in the roughly 1 in 5 people who avoided routine health checks and screenings during the pandemic. Since early detection is the best way to improve the effectiveness of treatment and management, this means that too many health problems that have developed or worsened over the past few years could have been prevented.
Closing the gap in terms of more men getting screened and tested regularly is not only about the well being of the individual, but also about improving the health of your local community.
In trying to convince the men in your life why you should get an annual checkup, it’s worth discussing some of these all-too-common questions that will help you get ahead of something big:
It is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, with almost 240,000 new cases and more than 130,000 deaths each year. Although most forms of lung cancer are caused by smoking, people who are exposed to secondhand smoke for a long period of time can also develop it. Unfortunately, even those who are not exposed to smoke can also get it.
Men aged 55 and older with a history of moderate smoking are strongly advised to undergo a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan, which has been increasingly used in recent years and can help find abnormal areas in the lungs that may be cancer. Research has shown that, unlike a chest x-ray, an annual LDCT scan for those at high risk can be life-saving.
For these people, an annual LDCT scan before symptoms appear can help reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men, and while it tends to grow slowly, some types can be significantly more aggressive.
Prostate cancer can often be detected at an early stage by measuring the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Another way to detect prostate cancer is with a digital rectal examination, in which the doctor examines the prostate gland by feel. Men should begin regular check-ups by age 50, or 10 years before the age at which a family member was diagnosed.
While many hospitals and health care systems such as El Camino Health have made notable strides in treating these advanced cancers, the ultimate goal is early diagnosis of these cancers when the chances of a cure are greatest.
Between 2008 and 2017, the death rate of young people under the age of 55 from colon cancer increased by 1% annually. Given this, regular check-ups are recommended for men at the age of 40 or, if you have a family history, 10 years before the age at which a family member was diagnosed.
Colonoscopy is an extremely common and effective procedure, and there are even non-invasive home tests to help detect colon cancer.
As you probably know, finding cancer early often increases the likelihood of successful treatment, so it’s not just about “doing the right thing” but potentially saving someone’s life, in this case your loved one.
So, on this Father’s Day, let your words of active care and concern be the greatest gift.
Shane Dormady is Medical Director of El Camino Health Cancer Centers in Mountain View and Los Gatos.