A man discusses cancer screenings with his physician during Men's Health Awareness Month.

Men’s health awareness should include cancer screenings

June is Men’s Health Awareness month, a time to remember that keeping tabs on your health can pay long-term dividends. Cancer screenings can play an important role in health awareness, particularly for those at risk of certain types of cancer.

Catching and treating cancer in its early stages improves the prognosis for remission and long-term survival. This is particularly true for lung cancer patients. According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER Database, lung cancer patients with localized disease have a 65% five-year survival rate. In other words, 65% of patients whose disease has not spread outside the lung are still alive five years after treatment. The survival rate drops to just 37% for patients whose cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph node.

Lung screenings are now covered by Medicare as well as state and private insurers for people at high risk for lung cancer. For example, Medicare pays for the test for people 55-77 years old who have smoked 30 pack-years. A pack-year is the number of cigarettes smoked per day divided by 20 (1 pack has 20 cigarettes). Screenings are also covered by Medicare for anyone who currently smokes or quit smoking within the past 15 years.

Provision Diagnostic Imaging offers lung screenings, a low dose CT scan that would cost $300-$500 without health insurance reimbursement. Call 865-684-2600 to schedule a lung screening.

Unlike lung cancer, prostate cancer has a relatively high survival rate, but it affects a much larger percentage of the population. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. In 2023, the American Cancer Society estimates 288,300 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. Furthermore, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate in their lifetimes.

Since early detection can improve long-term outcomes, people at higher risk for the disease should consult with their healthcare provider about their prostate cancer screening options.

Groups at higher risk of prostate cancer include:

  • Men aged 50 or older
  • Black men
  • Men aged 45 or older with a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65
  • Men aged 40 or older with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before age 65

Prostate cancer screening options include:

  1. Digital rectal exam (DRE). A DRE is a physical exam conducted by the physician to determine the size of the prostate and feel for tumors.
  2. PSA Test. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measuring levels of PSA in the blood. An elevated PSA test can indicate the presence of cancer but also noncancerous conditions such as prostatitis.
  3. Biopsy. Depending on the outcome of prior tests, a biopsy can confirm the presence of cancer.
  4. PSMA PET/CT Scan. A PSMA PET/CT scan uses prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) to determine whether prostate cancer is spreading to other parts of the body.

The Provision CARES Foundation supports EddieCheck, which offers free PSA screenings to East Tennessee men over 40 years old every September.