Screenings Are the Best Way to Prevent Cancer for Men

June is Men’s Health Month—make sure you know the warning signs of cancer

Author: Sarah Barber

Prostate, lung, colorectal and skin cancers are the most common cancers diagnosed among men, and one of the best weapons in fighting cancer is prevention through screeninga service that men can access at McLaren Greater Lansing.

“The best way to prevent cancer is to catch it early before it causes symptoms,” said Tomasz Stankiewicz, DO, physician at McLaren Greater Lansing Southside Medical Center. “I do this during wellness visits, which is the time when I get to know my patient, including their medical history, family history, and risk factors for cancer development. You cannot wait until you have symptoms. Cancer must be caught and treated early to have a better chance of recovery.”

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that around one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life.

Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms normally do not occur in the early stages of prostate cancer, which is why screening is so important. The most common prostate cancer symptom is issues with urination. However, having trouble with urinating does not always mean prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Men ages 55 or older should receive a digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test routinely. Each man’s prostate health variessome men may have to receive screenings at an earlier age, especially if they are considered high risk. This could be true if they:

  • Have a family history of prostate cancer, including a father, son, or brother who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65.
  • Are African American. African American men have a higher death rate due to prostate cancer than American men of European descent.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

Whether prostate cancer is detected early, at an advanced stage, or considered metastatic, advanced treatments allow for higher cure rates and patients living longer lives. There are five major pillars of therapy in cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. The most common treatments for prostate cancer are surgery; radiation therapies, including proton therapy; and hormone therapy, a type of targeted therapy.

Lung Cancer

A close second when it comes to cancer diagnosis among men is lung cancer. A man has about a one in 15 chance of developing lung cancer, according to the ACS. Men who smoke are at a higher risk. Lung cancer also ranks as the number one cause of cancer related death for men.

Preventing Lung Cancer

The number one way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke, but if you already smoke, you lower your risk of developing lung cancer by quitting.

Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of lung cancer usually take time to develop, so early signs of the disease can be difficult to detect without a screening. The earlier lung cancer is found, the greater the chance of survival. See your health care provider if you have:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • A cough that causes you to bring up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Arm pain or weakness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Lung Cancer Screening

If you are at an increased risk of lung cancer, you should be screened. Consider having a conversation with your primary care provider if you are:

  • 50-77 years old
  • Symptomatic (having a cough that does not go away, hoarseness, shortness of breath, etc.)
  • A current or former smoker with at least a 20 pack-year smoking history (one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years)
  • A current smoker or one who has quit within the last 15 years

Lung Cancer Treatment Options

With the available advanced treatments, oncologists can offer patients more options, even with metastatic lung cancer. Lung cancer can usually be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, proton therapy, and drug therapies.

Targeted therapies are generally given as a pill. These drugs can target the bad elements, or the cancer cells, while sparing normal cells that are not diseased. Immunotherapy can also be used to treat lung cancer.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men. About one in 23 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.

Colorectal Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Though symptoms of colorectal cancer are not usually present at the early stages, there are symptoms you should know about, should you develop the disease in its later stages. The most common symptoms are:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or blood in the stool.
  • Cramping or pain in the lower abdominal (stomach) area
  • Constant fatigue, or lack of energy

Colorectal Cancer Screening

There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, so it is important to receive routine testing. Generally, men who are considered at average risk for colon cancer should begin screenings at age 45. Those with high risk should start younger.

Men who are at high risk usually:

  • Are African AmericanAfrican Americans are recommended to begin screening at an earlier age
  • Have had colorectal cancer before
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer or other genetic factors (e.g. Lynch syndrome, or familial polyposis)
  • Have a personal history of colorectal polyps
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), also known as Crohn’s disease or colitis
  • Are obese and/or are physically inactive
  • Are regular tobacco or alcohol users
  • Have a diet that is high fat or high in red or processed meat and low in fiber, calcium, fruit and vegetables
  • Have Type 2 diabetes

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Avoiding regular tobacco and alcohol use and following a balanced diet can help in preventing colorectal cancer, but screening can help with prevention, as well.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment Options

Colorectal cancers can be treated with surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and drug therapies.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. It is the fifth most common cancer among men and women.  Skin cancer is most common in white men over 50 years of age. Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms:

  • Changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or a skin lesion
  • New skin growth or lesion on skin
  • A sore or a pimple that does not heal and continues to bleed or bother you

Skin Cancer Screening

Visual screening by a physician or self-exams are two ways to screen for skin cancer. You or your primary care doctor should evaluate a skin lesion using an mnemonic of ABCDE:

  • Asymmetry (Is the spot a perfect circle? Or another shape?)
  • Border irregularity (Does the spot have a smooth border? Or is the outside edge irregular?)
  • Color of skin lesion is unequal (Are there different colors presented in the spot?)
  • Diameter is greater than 6 mm (Is the spot larger than 6mm, or one-quarter inch?)
  • Skin lesion is Evolving over time (Is the spot changing?)

About half of all melanomas are self-detected, and screening is especially important if you or your family has a history of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Everyone should avoid using indoor tanning beds and protect their skin while outdoors. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirt, pants, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection). Apply water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.

Skin Cancer Treatment Options

Treatments for skin cancer or precancerous skin lesions include:

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen
  • Electrodesiccation, in which a small electric current destroys the tissue
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy

Get Screened for Cancer

Cancer screening guidelines change frequently. Speak with your primary care provider about the types of cancer screenings you may need, and when to receive them. If you are ready to schedule a cancer screening, click here.