Many men are not comfortable engaging in conversations about their health issues and as a result may seek medical attention only when they are feeling sick.
So how do we begin this important conversation? By talking about early detection and screening.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms and being aware of the screening tests available will save lives through detection of cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the four common cancers in men are prostate, testicular, colorectal and skin, all of which can be detected through early screening or by knowing the early signs and symptoms.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed most often in men over the age of 65. If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of testing for early detection of prostate cancer. The two types of tests used are the digital rectal exam and the prostate-specific antigen test (blood test).
Signs and symptoms to watch out for include: any changes in frequency, duration, and flow of urine, burning or pain when urinating, blood in urine or semen or painful ejaculation.
Testicular cancer is quite rare. Men between the ages of 15 and 49 are at increased risk of developing it. Men are encouraged to become familiar with their testicles and the best time to check them is after a warm bath or shower when the testacies descend and the muscles of the scrotum are relaxed.
Signs and symptoms to look for include: lumps, pain, feeling of heaviness or dragging in the lower abdomen or scrotum or a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin. Report anything unusual to your doctor.
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women and starts in the cells that line the inside if the colon and the rectum. This form of cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages because the lower abdomen has lots of room for a tumor to grow and expand.
Screening with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a non-invasive way to check your stool for blood that can be seen only with a microscope every two years after the age of 50. This test can help find colorectal cancer before symptoms develop. If traces of blood are found in the stool follow-up tests may be requested.
Signs and symptoms to watch for include bloating, fullness, cramps, change in bowel habits for no apparent reason, blood in the stool, narrower than usual stool, urgent need to have a bowel movement , feeling that bowel hasn’t completely emptied, nausea or vomiting, fatigue and weight loss without trying.
Skin cancer begins in different types of cells. The most common are basal and squamous. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect you from the sun.
Signs and symptoms include: changes in the shape, color or size of birthmark or mole, sores that don’t heal patches of skin that bleed, itch or become red and bumpy.
Let’s keep talking about men’s health to help raise awareness and encourage cancer screening for early detection. For more information about early detection of cancer and screening please visit www.albertahealthservices.ca.