The Role of Testing in Men’s Health
Appropriate medical testing is one of several important components of men’s health and a complete health check up. Depending on the circumstances, testing may be used for screening, diagnosis, and monitoring.
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 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.
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 or provide a comprehensive health checkup 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 or comprehensive health screening 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 as part of a full health check up for different medical conditions. Examples of possible screening tests are listed in the following table:
|Diabetes||Fasting glucose tests, hemoglobin A1c|
|Cardiovascular disease||Lipid panel|
|Depression / anxiety||Mental health questionnaires|
|Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)||Chlamydia, gonorrhea 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.
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.