Let’s say you’re a 65-year-old man who is healthy as a horse.
You’ve never even visited a hospital, let alone been admitted as a patient. Your friends and family marvel at your youthfulness. You work out and eat right. And, of course, you’re proud of it.
In fact, you might think you can shrug off certain health screenings suggested for guys your age. However, you’re mistaken. Whether you avoid screenings because you don’t believe you need them, or due to cost, discomfort or inconvenience, you could miss early warning signs of diseases that could jeopardize both your health and your life.
Here are three of the health screenings covered by Medicare, along with why you should schedule them as appropriate.
Key Health Screening #1: Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men in the U.S., after skin cancer. And Medicare will pay for screenings starting at age 50.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. It’s uncommon in men under 40 years of age, with 6 of 10 cases diagnosed in men 65 and up.
In 2021, the ACS estimates nearly 250,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed. Just over 34,000 men are expected to die from the disease, ranking it second to lung cancer deaths.
Men may not experience any symptoms when prostate cancer is in its early stages, the Mayo Clinic says. When it’s more advanced, symptoms include trouble urinating, blood in urine, and erectile dysfunction.
Fortunately, most men do not die of prostate cancer – especially if it’s detected by routine health screenings. Medicare covers both a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test once a year.
Often, lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of prostate cancer. These include adapting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Key Health Screening #2: Colorectal Cancer
While overall colorectal cancer deaths have decreased over the past 35 years, young onset colorectal cancer rates are increasing.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance expects 149,500 men and women to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2021. And the risk a man will develop it in his lifetime is 1 in 23.
As with prostate cancer, Medicare covers colorectal cancer preventative screenings including a fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy. And members usually don’t have to pay for these tests.
It’s no surprise men put off colonoscopies. While the procedure is generally quick and painless, no one likes the prep. But often, men do not experience symptoms until the cancer has spread – as a man named David in Connecticut shared with the Centers for Disease Control:
“Both my father and grandfather died of colon cancer. That’s what motivates me to get screened. My father did not get screened,” he said. “It actually wasn’t until he had some symptoms that he went to the doctor, and they found the cancer.”
Key Health Screening #3: Diabetes
In 2010, the American Heart Association says, 9.6 million men age 20 and older were diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
What’s more, nearly 70% of people 65 and older with diabetes die of some form of heart disease, and 16% die of stroke. Furthermore, in 2010, 311,000 males diagnosed with diabetes were discharged from brief hospital stays.
If you are at risk for diabetes, Medicare Part B will cover glucose lab test screenings if your doctor determines they’re necessary. It’s possible you will be eligible for up to two screenings per year.
Part B covers the lab tests if you have risk factors including:
· High blood pressure
· High blood sugar
· History of abnormal cholesterol and triglycerides
In addition, Medicare will cover diabetes screenings if you have two or more of the following:
· Age 65+
· Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling)
If you have Original Medicare, you don’t have to pay for these tests if your physician or other provider accepts assignment.
Beginning in January of 2021, some members became eligible for Medicare drug coverage offering access to many types of insulin for a $35 maximum payment for a month’s supply.
Now you know three important health screenings men with Medicare benefits can participate in.
You may seem perfectly healthy now. And that’s great. But undergoing health screenings for prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and diabetes will improve your chances of staying that way.
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