Gift of a Lifetime: Prevention, Screenings are Family Efforts Every Dad Can Be Proud Of


Penny Turtel, M.D.
Chief of Division of Gastroenterology
Jersey Shore University Medical Center

If there is one “family tradition” in health care most in need of course correction, it’s the misconception among men – especially fathers - that doctors’ visits are “optional” until symptoms are obvious and immediate.

The myth that recommended checkups and screenings somehow don’t apply to the family patriarch is a fallacy with potentially life threatening consequences. Medical organizations and experts nationwide agree that men to go through regular health screenings to find serious health problems early.

These include:

  • Cholesterol: Beginning at age 35, men should get their cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. Men younger than age 35 could benefit from cholesterol testing if they smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or have a family history of heart disease.

  • Blood pressure: All men should get their blood pressure checked at least every 2 years or more often if recommended by a health care provider.

  • Diabetes: Men should schedule a blood glucose test for diabetes if they have raised cholesterol or high blood pressure. They should also have this test if they notice signs of diabetes, like frequent thirst and urination, extreme tiredness, and blurred vision. Healthy men should get screened every 3 years, starting at age 50.

  • Colorectal cancer: Screenings should begin at age 50, or earlier if there is a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or a family history of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer screening can be done either with an annual blood testing, or via colonoscopy every 10 years.

“Colonoscopy is unique because it not only detects cancers at an early, curable stage, but also prevents colon cancer. Removal of precancerous polyps stops their ability to develop into colorectal cancers,” says Penny Turtel, M.D., chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Jersey Shore. “It’s truly a potentially life saving procedure.”

The age at which you begin screening depends on several things, including family history and your ethnic group. You and your doctor should decide which screening method (physical exam or blood test), if any, is best for your situation.


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