June 20, 2003

A Talk with Doctor Could be “Life or Death” Matter Remind Dad/Husband to Schedule His Annual Physical Exam

Let’s face it, men just don’t like to go to the doctor and probably wouldn’t go at all if their wives or significant others didn’t suggest (read nag) them about it. A simple annual checkup, however, could be a matter of life or death as many types of cancer don’t have symptoms in the early stages when they are most treatable.

“Talking with their doctors about personal health histories and those of their families can reduce the risk for developing cancer,” said Geoffrey Wein-stein, M.D., a radiation oncologist with Sharp Healthcare and volunteer for the American Cancer Society.

According to Dr. Weinstein, knowing what to discuss with your doctor is an important key to a successful annual exam. He recommended that men discuss the following topics with their family physician.

Prostate cancer: In San Diego County, an estimated 1,800 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year. Early prostate cancer has no symptoms so it is important to talk to your physician about risk factors such as age, ethnicity and family history. Your doctor will determine if testing is right for you. Tests for prostate cancer include the PSA (prostate specific-antigen) blood test and digital rectal exam.

Colon cancer: The primary risk factor for the disease is age with more than 90 percent of cases diagnosed in people more than 50 years of age. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in both men and women.

For those over 50 and depending on risk factors, the Society recommends one of the following routine screenings:

Annual fecal occult blood test

Flexible sigmoidoscopy ever five years

Double contrast barium enema every five years, if normal

Colonoscopy every 10 years if normal

Testicular cancer: This disease primarily affects younger men and is the most common cancer diagnosed in men between 15 and 35 years of age.

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of the disease because it can be found at an early stage. A testicular exam is an important part of a physical checkup.

In addition to an annual exam, Dr. Weinstein emphasized that it is important for men to maintain a healthy weight, consume a balanced diet high in plant-based foods, participate in regular physical activity, and avoid tobacco to reduce their risk of cancer.

The American Cancer Society can arrange for a volunteer from its Man to Man program to speak at civic organization meetings or to meet on a one-to-one basis with men facing a prostate cancer diagnosis. For more information, call (800) ACS-2345 or visit to find out about Man to Man or other patient service programs in San Diego County.

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