SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- See your GP for regular medical check-ups.
- Health checks can help you stay healthy, let you talk about any concerns with your doctor and pick up early warning signs of disease or illness.
- Screening tests may help your doctor to detect diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers in their early stages.
- If you are at high risk of a particular disease, get tested for that disease regularly, regardless of your age.
On this page
About health checks
Medical check-ups help you stay healthy and let you talk about any health concerns with your doctor.
Health checks can also help pick up early warning signs of disease or illness.
Health checks at home
Be proactive about your health by doing a few simple self-checks, every so often.
Getting familiar with the look and feel of your genitals is important so when something is amiss, you notice it and can get it sorted as soon as possible.
A testicular self-examination is a quick and simple check that you should do every month.
- It’s easiest after a warm bath or shower when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed.
- Gently roll one testis between the thumb and fingers to feel for any lumps or swellings in or on the surface of the testis. Repeat with the other testis.
- Don’t worry if one testis is a little bigger or hangs lower than the other – that’s normal. The testes should feel firm and the surface should feel smooth.
- Using the thumb and fingers, feel along the epididymis at the back of each testis and check for any swelling in this area.
- If there is any change to how the testes feel normally, see your doctor straight away.
Regularly checking your skin will help you get to know what’s normal for you so you can notice any changes.
Depending on your age, skin type, family history of skin cancer and whether you’ve had skin cancers before, you should check your skin every 3 months to one year (you should ask your doctor what’s right for you). Keep an eye out for new spots or changes to freckles or moles you already have.
- In a room with good light, completely undress and use a full-length mirror to check your whole body.
- Use a handheld mirror to see those hard-to-reach spots.
- Pay particular attention to areas like your armpits, scalp, between your fingers and toes, and the bottom of your feet.
- Look for changes in colour, size, feel or outline of your moles or freckles. Look for symptoms like itching, tingling, bleeding or weeping.
- If anything looks suspicious, see your doctor straight away.
Recognising the symptoms of common serious mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, is important.
You might associate depression with sadness and hopelessness, but common symptoms in men include irritability and anger, unnecessary risk-taking, and alcohol or drug abuse.
Beyond Blue’s Mental health check-in is a completely confidential way to check in on your mental wellbeing. It helps you to measure your level of distress and find the support that is right for you.
If you’re struggling, chat with your doctor as soon as possible. If you need help now, call:
- Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline Tel. 1800 551 800
- Beyond Blue Tel. 1300 224 636
- MensLine Tel. 1300 789 978.
What to chat to your doctor about
It’s a good idea for anyone who is sexually active to have regular sexual health checks, but they’re especially important:
- when you change sexual partners
- you’ve had unsafe sex
- your partner has recently had a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- you think you might have an STI.
Not all STIs have obvious symptoms so there’s a chance you, or your sexual partner, could have one without knowing it.
STIs can have serious long-term consequences for your health if they go untreated.
You can get tested at your GP or a sexual health clinic, where they’ll chat about your sexual history and often take a urine sample. Sometimes your sexual health check might include a swab or blood test. The whole process is private, confidential and health professionals are trained to make it as comfortable as possible.
If you’re thinking about starting a family in the next 12 months, chat to your doctor about having a pre-conception health check.
Things like being overweight, smoking, older age, STIs and exposure to harmful chemicals can reduce your fertility and can affect the health of your baby, so it’s important to get on top of them early.
Your Fertility has a handy pre-conception checklist you can fill out online to take with you to the doctor. Your doctor will talk with you about any changes you need to make to your health and tests you might need.
If you're 45 and over, or 30 and over if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you should have a heart health check.
A heart health check involves checking your blood pressure and other aspects of your health that affect your risk of heart disease such as your family history, whether you have diabetes, and whether you smoke.
Your doctor might also check your blood sugar and cholesterol levels (if they haven’t been measured in the past 12 months). They will calculate your risk of cardiovascular disease, order follow-up tests if necessary, and speak with you about what you can do to look after your heart health.
It’s important to work with a GP to keep on top of your heart health because they understand the risk factors and early symptoms of cardiovascular disease, and the best way to manage them.
Almost all cases of bowel cancer can be treated successfully if they’re found early but fewer than 50% are found at this stage. Your risk of bowel cancer increases as you get older and at 50 you should start screening for the disease, even if you have no symptoms. If you have a family history of bowel cancer speak to your doctor as screening may need to start earlier.
Every 2 years (from the age of 50 to 74) the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will send you a free, easy test kit in the mail that you can do at home.
Type 2 diabetes
The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age, and is higher than normal for people with a family history of the disease, and people from some ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
It’s recommended that people screen for diabetes using the Australian type 2 diabetes risk assessment tool every 3 years if they are at increased risk: that includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 18 and others aged over 40.
If the Australian type 2 diabetes risk assessment tool says you are at high risk, or if you have some other risk factors, regular measurement of your blood glucose levels is recommended. Your doctor will decide how often is right for you.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented in around 6 out of every 10 people at high risk of diabetes (pre-diabetes) by eating well and exercising, so these screenings are critical for catching people at increased risk.
People often don’t realise they have osteoporosis until a bump or fall leaves them with a fracture.
In general, as you get older your bone density decreases, and things like smoking, drinking alcohol and low levels of physical activity increase the risk. Some health conditions, such as low vitamin D levels, hormone problems and diabetes, or medications (for example, corticosteroids) can also cause weaker bones.
If you’re in your 50s, you should talk to your doctor once a year about your risk of having low bone density. If you’re over 60, a DEXA (dual-energy absorptiometry) scan might be needed to measure your bone density.
If you have low testosterone or have broken a bone from a minor fall, you should talk to your doctor about being tested earlier. If low bone density is diagnosed early and treated, bone loss can be slowed down.
Prostate cancer screening
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australian men, particularly in those over the age of 50. A PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test can help to detect prostate cancer, but it is not recommended for all men who do not have symptoms of prostate cancer.
There are a few things to think about before having a PSA test for prostate cancer, such as your age, level of concern, family history, and the risks and benefits of finding it early.
If you have a PSA test and your levels are high, your doctor might suggest you wait a few weeks before repeating the test because levels can vary. If a high PSA level is confirmed, you’ll need to decide what to do next. The benefit of a PSA test is that it might discover prostate cancer when it’s small and can be cured, but there are possible side effects of unnecessary surgery or radiotherapy for low-risk cancers.
Discuss the potential benefits and risks of PSA tests with your doctor and learn more about the evolution of PSA testing and current recommendations at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia website.
Other health tests
It is recommended that you have a dental check-up each year, to look after the health of your teeth and gums. Of course, if you notice anything unusual or are in pain, you should see your dentist straight away.
If you notice any problems with your vision or hearing, you should see an optometrist or audiologist for an eye test or hearing test.
If you have a family history of vision or hearing problems, your doctor might recommend regular tests. As you get older, it’s a good idea to have regular vision and hearing tests, so any problems are picked up early. Your doctor can help you to work out what tests are right for you.
To learn more about the different health checks you need at each stage of life, or to order a health check toolkit, visit the Spanner in the Works website.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- Eye specialist – such as an optometrist or orthoptist
- Healthy Male Tel. 1300 303 878
- Cancer Council Victoria Tel. 13 11 20
- National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
- Heart Foundation
- Diabetes Australia
- Healthy Bones Australia
- How is osteoporosis diagnosed, Healthy Bones Australia.
- Check for signs of skin cancer, Cancer Council.
- Understanding the context and causes of male health, Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre.
- Who is most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?, Diabetes Victoria.
- Get checked – men, Cancer Council.
- Clinical practice guidelines for PSA testing and early management of test-detected prostate cancer, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Cancer Council Australia PSA Testing Guidelines Expert Advisory Panel, Cancer Council Australia.