As we focus on dads each June, it’s also time to renew focus on men’s health and schedule potentially life-saving health screenings.

Given the choice between undergoing a simple health screening or suffering a life-threatening illness, it’s safe to assume most men would choose the screening. Unfortunately, far too many men ignore recommendations for routine health screenings and often ignore symptoms that can be indicators of serious disease. The symptoms of hemorrhoids, for example, are similar to those of more serious health problems, such as polyps or colorectal cancer. In those instances, early treatment is crucial.

Because men are less likely to visit their doctor and undergo routine screenings, they’re dying of the top causes of death at higher rates than women and, on average, die six years younger than women.

Regular physicals and age-appropriate screenings can improve health and reduce premature death and disability. That’s why my colleagues at Premier and I are working to reach men with the message that they need to make their health a priority.

The Men’s Health Network, a nonprofit education organization made up of physicians, researchers and other health professionals, recommends the following schedule for checkups and screenings:

  • Physical exam – Every three years from age 20-39; every two years from age 40-49; and annually beginning at age 50.
  • Blood pressure – Every year.
  • Blood tests and urinalysis – Every three years from age 20-39; every two years from age 40-49; and annually beginning at age 50.
  • Rectal exam – Every year. Rectal exams screen for hemorrhoids, lower rectal problems, colon and prostate cancer.
  • PSA blood test – Every year beginning at age 50; at age 40 or earlier for African American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer.
  • Hemoccult – Every year beginning at age 40. This test screens the stool for microscopic amounts of blood that may be the first indication of polyps or colon cancer.

The organization also suggests that beginning at age 20 men perform monthly self exams of their testicles to find lumps in their earliest stages; their skin to look for signs of changing moles, freckles or early skin cancer or melanoma; their mouths to look for signs of cancerous lesions; and their breasts to find abnormal lumps in their earliest stages. Men should report any concerns from self-exams to their primary care physician.

In addition to screenings, men can improve their health by following a healthy, well-balanced diet; getting plenty of exercise; staying smoke and tobacco-free; managing stress; and being aware of risk factors.

This June, I encourage you to take charge of your health and see a physician if you’re due for a regular screening or if you have symptoms that may indicate underlying disease.