In an effort to contain healthcare costs many patients are reluctant to see their family physician on a regular basis. However, there are times when seeing your doctor for a routine check-up just makes sense. Most patients do not hesitate to see their doctor when they are not feeling well. Persistent symptoms that have not responded well to home treatment or are progressively worsening usually prompt a call to the physician’s office. In these cases it is expected that the doctor will run specific tests so proper diagnosis can be made. But what about those times when your health has been relatively stable? Are routine exams and tests still necessary? Yes, they certainly are. According to Health MSN, the type of annual tests the physician will recommend will depend largely upon your age, health history, gender and genetic predispositions. Some of the more commonly ordered tests for annual check-ups should include the following.
Blood work drawn routinely is one of the quickest ways for your doctor to identify problems and help establish diagnosis and treatment. Blood tests give the physician a good idea of how your body systems and organs are functioning such as the heart, liver and kidneys. It can also help diagnosis conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems and anemia. A blood draw is quick and simple and just a few small tubes of blood can provide a wealth of information.
Mammograms should be done every one to two years for women over the age of 40. If there is a family history of breast cancer, the doctor might want this done more frequently. Pelvic exams and pap smears should also be done on a regular basis. A small sample of cervical cells is collected during a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. Breast exams should also be done annually to detect signs of breast cancer.
According to The Prostate Clinic, men should have their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level checked every one to two years for those age 40 and over and earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer. Along with the PSA blood test, a digital rectal exam should also be routinely done to identify enlargement of the prostate.
A colonoscopy is another routine examination that your doctor will recommend for you. This test is done to rule out colon and rectal cancer and is especially needed if you have a history of colon disease or have a family history of it. If you are at low risk for colon cancer you only need to have the exam done once every ten years.
Glaucoma is a serious irreversible eye condition that can cause blindness if not treated. Glaucoma causes vision loss due to damage of your optic nerve. An increase in the pressure in your eyes can lead to this nerve damage. The test for glaucoma identifies if the eye pressure is increasing. The Glaucoma Research Foundation states that open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, does not have any symptoms. Since glaucoma can affect persons in any age group it needs to be monitored throughout your life.
Influenza, Pneumonia and Hepatitis B
According to Flu Facts the influenza season occurs between October and May. The height of the flu season is usually between December and March. Flu shots and pneumonia shots can be received at the physician’s office during the annual physical exam or at a flu clinic, many of which are set up at grocery stores, drug stores and other local shopping areas. Many employers offer their employees flu shots annually at no cost. Your physician can also provide vaccine shots for another dangerous disease, Hepatitis B.
Bone density testing
A bone density scan, also known as a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is used to measure bone loss. A bone density test is used to diagnose a condition called osteoporosis which causes the bones to become more fragile from loss of calcium. There are two types of bone density testing machines. The large central device looks like a flat table and measures the bone density of the spine and hips. There are also smaller devices known as peripheral devices that can measure the bone density in your heel, finger or wrist. Your physician will specify which one you should have.
Your doctor might routinely wish to do a resting electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).This is a common, non-invasive test that will show the doctor the electrical activity of your heart and is a good initial indicator of certain heart rhythm problems. ECG changes can also reveal a heart attack which will then be confirmed by blood work and other studies. Cardiac screening also should include checking your cholesterol level. Elevated cholesterol levels can be an indicator of heart disease and can lead to narrowing of the arteries which could lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Gaining a prior knowledge of routine tests and examinations will alleviate much of your apprehension towards having these done. Be sure to ask the doctor to explain the necessity of each test to you. Have a good understanding of what preparation may be needed for the test and what to expect during and after the exam. Do not hesitate to question what you don’t understand. According to the Foundations of Wellness, many insurance companies are looking to conserve costs and may no longer cover certain routine tests unless the patient is showing symptoms or has risk factors. These costs, of course, would become your responsibility, yet this should still not deter you from having routine medical check-ups. In the long run you will pay more if diseases are not caught in time, not only monetarily but also healthwise.
Not Alone: “Annual Medical Checkup: The Not So Routine Physical Exam”
Health MSN: “Annual Medical Checkup: The Not So Routine Physical Exam”
Web MD: “Annual physical exam”
Foundation of Wellness: “The Wellness guide to preventive care”