Since men tend to avoid visiting their doctor until absolutely necessary, performing bodily self-exams is more important than ever. This self-exams are crucial for catching medical issues early and for staying healthy. Most self-exams can be done well under five minutes but are worth every second if a suspicious finding turns out to be a serious problem. Keep in mind, self-exams are not meant to replace seeing your doctor routinely but instead to serve as an additional part of staying on top of your health.
The following three self-exams are often overlooked by men but when performed monthly, it may be what saves their life:
1. Testicular cancer self-exam
Considered a young man’s cancer, testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among men ages 20 to 35. Men at higher risk include having a family history of this cancer and men with an undescended testicle. When men of all ages perform this self-exam, it helps them to become familiar with what feels and looks normal. The first signs may be a lump felt on a testicle or noticing a painless swelling or enlargement of a testicle. If either is found, seeing a doctor right away is necessary.
Testicular self-exams are best performed during a bath or shower when the scrotum is relaxed making the testicles are easier to examine. Here’s how to perform a testicular self-exam:
- Using both hands, hold one testicle between the fingers and thumbs
- Gently roll the testicle between the fingers paying attention to any bumps, hard lumps or a change in consistency, size or shape of the testicle. You should feel no pain during the self-exam.
- Do the same self-exam on the other testicle
2. Belly fat self-exam
Yes, performing a belly fat self-exam is vital. When men gain weight, it almost always accumulates in the central abdominal area often referred to as a “spare tire” or “beer belly.” Excess belly fat is not only a predictor for increasing prostate cancer but also for aggressive prostate cancer. Besides prostate cancer, the accumulation of fat deep within the abdominal area, also known as visceral fat, produces hormones raising men’s risk for heart disease and diabetes. Knowing this information can help identify men who have a greater risk of developing these dangerous diseases.
Checking belly fat once a month is easily done – all you need is a cloth measuring tape to measure the circumference of your waist. Here are the steps involved:
- Stand and place the tape measure around your bare belly at the level of your belly button.
- Relax, exhale and measure your waist.
Men, with a waist measurement of 40 inches or higher, are at risk for developing prostate cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
Taking steps to reduce belly fat includes eating healthy foods, consistent exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding sugary beverages.
3. Breast self-exam
While far more common in women than men, men do have breasts and can develop breast cancer. Men’s breast tissue is the same as women’s and can change over the course of their life. Men, between the ages of 60 to 70, have the highest risk for developing breast cancer. Men, with a family history (men or women) of breast cancer, may need to be monitored more closely which is why performing monthly breast self-exams are important. In addition, a 2019 study in JAMA Oncology, found that men have higher death rates than women across all stages of breast cancer. One reason may be that few men perform self-breast exams and therefore are diagnosed at a more advanced stage of the disease.
Here’s how to perform a breast self-exam:
- Perform this exam either during or right after taking a shower. This helps relax and smooth skin helping find any abnormalities easier.
- To examine each breast, use the opposite hand to do so.
- Beginning at the outside of the breast near the shoulder, place fingers flat on the breast pressing firmly as you slowly circle toward the nipple.
- Be aware of any lumps, tenderness, or changes in texture.
- Squeeze the nipple looking for any discharge.
- Repeat on the other breast.
Men who find any changes should contact their doctor right away for further examination.