Men’s Health Series: What Should I Worry About When I’m In My…Fifties?

Being Honest With Your Doctor About Health Problems Can Help Prevent Disease, Cancer In Later Life

couple in their 50's

Third of three articles in a series about what to expect at different stages of manhood.

So, you’ve bypassed the mid-life crisis and now you’re looking forward to finding a place in Florida and spending what’s left of your 401K. But just because life might be slowing down, doesn’t mean you should neglect your health or your efforts to prevent disease.

“As men turn 50, they need to talk to their doctor and update their family history because that plays a big part in determining somebody’s individual risk for multiple diseases,” said Scott & White family physician, Sandra Kitson, MD.

As we age, our risk for colon cancer increases. Of the types of cancer that affect both men and women, colorectal (colon) cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Because this risk is so high, doctors recommend that you have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50.

“I generally encourage [patients] to get the colonoscopy done because it is a significantly low-risk procedure and has a significant benefit,” Dr. Kitson said. “And if you don’t have any polyps, then you don’t have to go back for ten years.”

Not only are people over 50 at higher risk for developing colon cancer, but men in later life have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

“It is important to have a conversation about having a prostate screening,” Dr. Kitson said.

Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment, but the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men are informed of the risks and benefits of treatment and make their decision to be screened with their doctor.

If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your doctor starting at age 45, the ACS suggests.

“It’s important to be honest with their doctor so the appropriate testing and treatment can be done”

It’s not always easy to discuss your prostate with your doctor, but Dr. Kitson said patients should never be afraid to talk to their doctor about screenings or problems they may be having.

“Unfortunately for men, when they get to this age, they may have problems with erectile dysfunction (ED) and they have problems maybe for the first time with depression,” Dr. Kitson said.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, ED is not a natural part of aging.

ED can be a sign of other health problems like a clogged blood vessel or nerve damage from diabetes.

And depression may be common in older patients because of stressful or sad situations like losing a loved one or transitioning from work to retirement, but when a person’s depression interferes with daily life it could be a medical condition that needs to be treated.[1]

“So, it’s important to be honest with their doctor so the appropriate testing and treatment can be done,” Dr. Kitson said.

For more information on health screenings and healthcare in later life, visit cdc.gov or cancer.org.

What would you like to know about life over 50? Comment below to let us know what other topics you’d like to know about when it comes to men’s health.

[1] The National Institute of Mental Health, NIH Senior Health site (http://nihseniorhealth.gov/depression/aboutdepression/01.html)

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