Add another test to your doc’s checkup checklist. According to a report released last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will make a new recommendation on an HIV screening before the end of 2012–possibly pushing for the test to become a routine screening.
Why should you care? Because you could be at risk. Roughly 20 percent of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in America don’t know they’re infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, we rounded up three more underrated medical tests that every man should pencil into his calendar. (And some aches and pains you can take care of yourself without a trip to the doctor. Check out The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies.)
Digital Rectal Exam
Bear with us, here. While you may not be so keen on the idea of a rectal exam–and really, who is?–this 20-second test could help save your manhood. Here’s the gist: Your doc puts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to examine organs or other structures in your pelvis and lower belly. The main goal? To keep track of the size of your prostate.
“Prostate size can change dramatically as you get older,” says Mark Moyad, M.D., of the University of Michigan Medical Center. “But this isn’t always a red flag for prostate cancer.” Changes in the prostate could also be a sign of inflammation, which not only affects how frequently you pee, but can also hurt your ability to maintain an erection. Your move: Get a baseline test in your 20s (or start whenever you have your next checkup), says Dr. Moyad.
Fecal Occult Blood Test
Sounds like a death-metal band name, right? FOBT is also a cheap, painless procedure to tide you over between colonoscopy appointments. “Although the colonoscopy’s a great test, colon cancer can kill you within a 5-to-10-year time span,” Dr. Moyad says. An annual FOBT eliminates that worry.
How it works: A sample of your stool is spread on a special card or cloth and sent off to a lab. The sample is mixed with chemicals to search for blood undetectable to the naked eye. If blood is found, doctors know to begin searching for the cause. Blood can appear in your stool for a variety of reasons, but typically it’s used to detect colon cancer, hemorrhoids, colon polyps, and peptic ulcers, says Dr. Moyad.
Don’t want to drop a deuce at the doctor’s office? Pick up a kit from your pharmacy and conduct the test in the privacy of your own home. Just bring the sample back to your doc and he’ll ship it off to the lab, Dr. Moyad says. (Save your ass! Chow down on these 10 Foods That Fight Colon Cancer.)
A Mental Screening
Feeling a little blue lately? Depression rates are steadily climbing, and since the condition is linked to numerous health problems for men–chief among them anxiety, stress, erectile dysfunction, and coronary heart disease–you’d be wise to get checked. Tell your doc you want to fill out the Beck Depression Inventory to get a baseline on your mental health. The BDI is a 21-question test that touches upon symptoms related to depression, like hopelessness, feelings of guilt, lack of interest in sex, and irritability. “Many men fail to realize they’re having depressive episodes,” says Dr. Moyad. Taking 10 minutes out of your day to answer a questionnaire is about as simple as it gets, he explains.