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What Is Men’s Health?

Men’s health focuses on elements of wellness that only apply to men or that affect men at higher rates or in ways that are distinct from women.

On average, men live five years fewer than women. More than 40% of adult men live with obesity, and over half have high blood pressure. Diseases like prostate cancer only occur in men, and some high-risk lifestyle habits, such as use of alcohol and cigarettes, are more common in men.

Despite these health concerns, men are more likely to avoid going to the doctor to get the medical care and tests they need. An emphasis on men’s health involves promoting positive lifestyle habits, regular medical checkups, and testing to promptly identify potential health problems.

The Role of Testing in Men’s Health

Appropriate medical testing is one of several important components of men’s health. Depending on the circumstances, testing may be used for screening, diagnosis, and monitoring.

Screening

Screening is the medical term for looking for a potential problem before symptoms arise. For many conditions, screening leads to early detection that makes that problem easier to address. However, there can be downsides to screening, so the recommended tests for men depend on your age and overall health.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is the process of determining the cause of a problem after you have developed signs or symptoms. A huge range of tests can be used for diagnosis depending on your symptoms. Discussing health changes or concerns with a doctor can help them determine the diagnostic tests that are most likely to identify the underlying issue.

Monitoring

After a health problem or disease has been diagnosed, tests are frequently used to monitor your condition. If you are receiving treatment, follow-up tests can evaluate how well the treatment is working.

Types of Men’s Health Tests

A wide variety of tests are available that can help promote men’s health depending on a person’s individual circumstances.

Some tests are routine forms of screening that are often performed as part of a regular check-up with your doctor:

  • Physical exam: A basic physical exam can reveal or examine various types of potential problems.
  • Bodyweight and body mass index (BMI) calculation: Taking your weight and height can help determine if you are overweight or obese.
  • Blood pressure reading: Recording your blood pressure, usually with a cuff that wraps around your upper arm, can document high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which can contribute to cardiovascular problems.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): This blood test measures the levels of different types of blood cells.
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): This test involves several different measurements that provide insights about metabolism as well as liver and kidney function.

Depending on your age, overall health, and risk factors, your doctor may recommend one or more screening tests for different medical conditions. Examples of possible screening tests are listed in the following table:

CONDITION SCREENING TEST(S)
Diabetes Fasting glucose testshemoglobin A1c
Cardiovascular disease Lipid panel
Depression / anxiety Mental health questionnaires
HIV HIV testing
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Chlamydiagonorrhea and syphilis testing
Colon cancer Colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool DNA test
Prostate cancer Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test

There are no standard screening tests for some conditions that affect men’s health such as testicular cancer. Medical experts generally recommend only testing for testicular cancer if you’ve had symptoms. Examples of tests that may be used when symptoms are present are described in the table below. A doctor can best address whether these tests are appropriate in your specific situation:

TESTS RELATED TO TESTICULAR CANCER
Test Name Test Sample What It Measures
Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) Blood A protein that is often produced by a certain type of testicular tumor
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) Blood A hormone that can be produced by different types of testicular tumors
Lactate dehydrogenase (LD or LDH) Blood An enzyme that reflects cellular damage and may be elevated in testicular cancer and numerous other conditions
Ultrasound N/A An image of the testicles to detect the presence of a tumor

Professional medical organizations do not recommend general screening of testosterone levels. However, if you have symptoms of low testosterone, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:

TESTS RELATED TO LOW TESTOSTERONE
Test Name Test Sample What It Measures
Testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) Blood The level of bound and/or free testosterone
Luteinizing hormone (LH) Blood A hormone involved in the signaling of testosterone production
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) Blood A hormone-related to the production of sperm and proteins that bind to male hormones
Prolactin N/A A hormone that may be elevated if a tumor in the pituitary gland called prolactinoma is causing low testosterone

Getting Men’s Health Testing

Men’s health testing most often occurs in a health clinic or a doctor’s office. Many tests take place during an annual check-up. In addition, your doctor can help explain which screening tests are recommended based on your age and health and which diagnostic tests may be most helpful for any symptoms or health concerns that you have.

At-home testing

Some types of at-home testing is available for aspects of men’s health screening. For example, at-home tests can measure cholesterol or blood sugar. At-home screening may also be available for HIV, some sexually transmitted infections, and colon cancer.

Sources and Resources

These pages provide further background about men’s health and steps that men can take to improve their wellness.

Sources

Bhasin S, Brito JP, Cunningham GR, et al. Testosterone Therapy in Men With Hypogonadism: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018;103(5):1715-1744. doi:10.1210/jc.2018-00229

CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. FastStats: Men’s Health. Published March 29, 2021. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Which STD tests should I get? Updated June 30, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015 STD treatment guidelines. Published January 28, 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6403a1.htm

Lin KW. Screening for testicular cancer. In: Elmore JG, ed. UpToDate. Updated October 7, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/screening-for-testicular-cancer

MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Men’s health. Updated April 17, 2018. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/menshealth.html

MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Testosterone levels test. Updated December 3, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/testosterone-levels-test/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Men: Take charge of your health. Updated October 15, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/men-take-charge-your-health#panel-2

Cary, Kristina, Division of Clinical and Community Services, Indian Health Service. National Men’s Health Week focuses on prevention and early detection. Updated June 16, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.ihs.gov/newsroom/ihs-blog/june2020/national-mens-health-week-focuses-on-prevention-and-early-detection/

PDQ® Screening and Prevention Editorial Board. Prostate cancer screening (PDQ®)–Patient version. National Cancer Institute; 2019. Updated April 10, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/patient/prostate-screening-pdq

Snyder PJ. Clinical features and diagnosis of male hypogonadism. In: Matsumoto AM, ed. UpToDate. Updated March 19, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-and-diagnosis-of-male-hypogonadism

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Chlamydia and gonorrhea: Screening. Published September 22, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/document/RecommendationStatementFinal/chlamydia-and-gonorrhea-screening

Williams J, Nieuwsma J. Screening for depression in adults. In: Elmore JG, Roy-Byrne PP, eds. UpToDate. Updated June 26, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/screening-for-depression-in-adults

Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Kochanek KD, Arias E. Mortality in the United States, 2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 355. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.

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