Preventive Medicine in Your 50s
Celebrating your 50th birthday is a major life milestone – you’ve reached what many call the prime of your life. You’ve accomplished a lot by this point in your life and, for a lot of adults, it’s a time to begin to really truly get to enjoy it all.
In order to enjoy all you’ve worked for, be proactive and prevent illness from robbing you of your health.
There are tests and screenings that are typically supposed to begin in your 40's that you should continue to have in your 50’s. But there are additional tests that you should begin having when you turn 50.
When you have your annual physical at 50, talk to your doctor about any tests you should start or continue having that can maintain your health and lengthen your life. While some of these tests may be uncomfortable, they only last a short period of time, but can add years to your life.
Here are some of tests you can ask your doctor about.
This colon cancer screening should begin when you turn 50 – it’s the most accurate test for cancer of the colon and rectum, proven to detect it early when it’s most treatable. If your doctor doesn’t find anything during your colonoscopy and you don’t have risk factors, you likely won’t have to have the test done again for 10 years.
During this test, your doctor will look for grape-like growths known as a polyps or adenomas. They’re common in adults and are usually harmless, but some may eventually turn into cancer. If one or two small, low-risk adenomas are removed, the exam will be repeated in five to 10 years.
Prostate Cancer Screening
It’s recommended that when men turn 40, they start having digital prostate exams in order to detect any changes in the prostate that may indicate the presence of cancer. When you turn 50, your doctor may recommend you have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This tests for PSA in your blood – it’s a substance your prostate gland naturally produces. A small amount of PSA in your bloodstream is considered normal; however, a higher than normal level of this substance may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
An Annual Gynecological Exam
This is an exam women should have been having every year since they became sexually active or reached the age of 18. This exam is when your doctor performs a pelvic exam and Pap test to screen for sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer. These tests remain important to you when you turn 50, but this annual appointment can now serve as an opportunity to talk to your doctor about menopause.
When menopause happens naturally, it typically occurs when women reach their 50's. Talk to your doctor about symptoms you should be aware of that may indicate menopause is starting. If you are already experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor about ways to manage or cope with them.