We're all guilty of this: we only go to the doctor when we're already sick or, in some cases, already very sick. People should realize the importance of routine checkup and screening since early detection is a key in the successful prevention and treatment of so many kinds of health problems. Even if you're in top shape, you should still make it a habit to visit your doctor at least once a year.
A routine check-up with the family doctor will include:
- physical exam
- blood pressure measurement
- electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart activity
Use this opportunity to tell your doctor about any symptoms or health problems troubling you so you can be tested accordingly.
Routine Blood Test
It's necessary to have a routine blood test once a year.
This would include:
- complete blood count (CBC) to check if you have any anemia
- fasting glucose levels for screening for diabetes
- cholesterol levels to determine if you're at risk for heart diseases
Colon Cancer Screening
This test would find out if there are any abnormal growths inside the colon. These are called polyps and they can develop into cancer. Early detection can remove these abnormal growths immediately to prevent cancer.
You must be tested for this if:
- you are over 50 years old
- you have family history of colon cancer
- you have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome
- you have a certain genetic syndrome
Mammogram is a screening that can detect breast cancer in the early stage. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. In a mammogram the breasts are put under the x-ray to see if there are any abnormal lumps. This is recommended for all women, especially those in between the ages of 50 and 74. Annual mammogram is ideal but you can also have this performed every two years.
During a mole exam, the dermatologist would examine the moles to see if any of them is melanoma or skin cancer.
Apart from having a mole exam once a year, you should also check your moles yourself at least every month. Look at the moles that you have. Watch out for those that:
- are asymmetric
- do not have any sharp borders
- are larger than 6 mm
- do not have consistent color
Another common type of cancer is cervical. The cervix is the lower part of the woman's uterus. The pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer that can be done through a vaginal exam. The doctor will collect cells from and around the uterine cervix. These cells will be checked under the microscope to find if there are any pre-cancer cells. These cells will also be checked for HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Three years after having sex or upon reaching the age of 21 (whichever comes first), you should have this test annually.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Now for men, one of the most common types of cancer is prostate cancer. The prostate which is situated under the bladder, in front of the rectum is what produces part of the semen fluids.
Prostate cancer screening comes two types:
• Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, which is a simple blood test that measures this substance, which is high in people with prostate cancer.
• Digital Rectal Exam (DRE), in which the doctor inserts a finger through the rectum to feel the size and shape of the prostate.
The purpose of this test is to diagnose osteoporosis – a condition common in older people (mostly women) in which bones become thin and weakened, which makes them susceptible to fractures. A special x-ray picture is taken in order to measure the density of bones in your hips, spine and wrists. Routine screening is recommended for women older than 65 years old.