Screenings for a healthier Dad on Father’s Day

Five of the most dangerous diseases in men are actually preventable. So, instead of buying a necktie this year, take your dad in for some health screenings.

1. Get your blood pressure measured!
The leading risks for deaths in North America are hypertension, tobacco use, cholesterol, being overweight, a diet low in fruit and vegetables, and inactivity. Some 5 million Canadians have hypertension, many of whom are not diagnosed or not treated adequately. So one of the first screens your dad should get is having his blood pressure measured. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Without having blood pressure measured, you cannot know if you are at risk!

2. Have your blood sugar tested!
More than 2 million Canadians have diabetes, with 90 per cent of diabetics having type 2 diabetes. It usually develops in adulthood, although there are children in certain high risk populations. As the Canadian Diabetes Association points out, if left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can result in a variety of complications, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye disease
  • Problems with erection (impotence)
  • Nerve damage

If you are aged 40 or over, you are at risk for type 2 diabetes and should be tested at least every three years. If you are at high risk, blood sugar should be tested earlier. These risks include being a member of a high-risk group (Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent), and being overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your middle). Other risk factors include a family history of diabetes, a previously abnormal measurement showing you have impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance. In addition, if you have hypertension or abnormal cholesterol you should be tested earlier.

3. Get your cholesterol measured!
With abnormal cholesterol a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke, discuss with your doctor what your values should be. Anyone with a history of diabetes or a previous cardiac event will require medication, but if you are a smoker or have high blood pressure or even a family member with early cardiac disease, the values that are considered normal for you are generally lower than an at average risk person.

4. Get screened for colorectal cancer
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2009, an estimated 22,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 9,100 will die of it. Overall, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men and women combined. One in 14 men is expected to develop colorectal cancer during his lifetime and one in 27 will die of it.

Colorectal cancer screening means checking for colorectal cancer as part of routine medical care when there are no symptoms. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, men and women aged 50 and over shuld have a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) at least every 2 years. FOBT testing helps identify polyps before they become cancerous. Follow-up for a positive test could include a colonoscopy, double contrast barium enema (an x-ray of the large intestine) and sigmoidoscopy.

Those who are at higher than average risk of developing colorectal cancer should discuss an individual plan of surveillance with their doctor. High-risk individuals include those with:

  • a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer (such as a parent, sibling or child)
  • a personal history of colorectal cancer
  • inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative or Crohn’s disease
  • some inherited syndromes such as FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis) or HNPCC (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer)
  • benign polyps of the colon or rectum

5. Prostate Screening
Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Research currently shows that the risks of testing for prostate cancer may outweigh the benefits in screening men at average risk of developing prostate cancer.

Most research shows that the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test is mainly effective as a diagnostic test for men who are at above average risk of developing prostate cancer, or demonstrate symptoms of prostate cancer. PSA testing is often used in combination with the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).

The PSA and DRE tests have a high rate of false-positive results. A false positive means that the test result suggests cancer, even though no cancer is actually present (a false alarm).

These tests can also give false-negative results. In other words, no cancer is detected, even though cancer is present. Getting a false-negative result can cause you or your doctor to ignore symptoms of prostate cancer.

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