There are lots of startling cancer statistics—we know hearing more won’t fend off the disease or hasten your next visit to the doctor. The only information that will truly help you is the truth about the cancers you most likely face as a man, the symptoms to watch out for, the tests you’ll need to take, and the future you might face if you do get the diagnosis.
“Listen to your body,” says Mike LeFevre, M.D., vice co-chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Meaning: Don’t ignore something that feels out of place. Odds are it’s nothing serious, but many times the only way to catch cancer is to tell your doctor that something doesn’t feel right. “There are few cancers with good science to support regular screening,” LeFevre says.
However, there is some interesting science that offers hope for the future. At the Washington University School of Medicine, where some of the most groundbreaking cancer research has been done, a team led by William Harbour, M.D., has discovered a way to identify gene patterns in eye melanomas. Using a test measuring the activity of 15 genes, a physician can determine whether the cancer will stay in the eye (class 1) or spread to the liver (class 2).
The test, which is now used in most North American ocular oncology centers, allows doctors to be more proactive with class-2 patients. The goal is to develop a way to treat class-2 patients preemptively and to find other cancers where testing can also be done.
“We’re hoping to make cancer a chronic disease rather than one you die of,” says Harbour. “The future may offer therapies that allow people to lead a healthy life through treatment.”
When men think of cancer, we usually focus on the big three— prostate, lung, and bowel cancer—which account for more than 50% of cancer in men. Here’s the lowdown on who’s most at risk, what screening tests are available, and who should get them.