Do you need any of the 10 screening exams that could save your life? Even if you feel great and are not on any medications, preventive health care benefits you by finding problems before they become a potentially serious health threat. Have you seen your doctor or other health care provider recently?
Why Preventive Health Care Matters
Health care is not just for people who are feeling ill or have medical issues. Throughout our lifetime we all need wellness visits to monitor our health and address our medical needs. It is usually much easier to treat a problem with the best clinical outcome when it is discovered early on. Get in the habit of seeing your health care provider for routine well-visits and problem-focused evaluations. Schedule a visit today to keep yourself in top condition.
Many preventive screening exams will be covered in full or partially (you may have co-pay or a deductible) by your medical insurance. Insurance typically covers exams that are deemed to be an important part of your healthcare, based on things like your age and medical history.
If you are elderly, then preventive screening exams will most likely play a more important part of your overall healthcare. Here is a video that presents a basic overview of preventive care for Medicare patients:
Ten Life-Saving Screening Exams For Adults
Any of these 10 screening exams could save your life. Screening exams are only useful if they pertain directly to your individual situation and medical history. They are typically based on your particular level of risk. Even people who are at average risk may require a screening exam. Higher than average risk individuals may need more frequent screening.
Please do not use the information in this article as a substitute for seeing your health care provider for a comprehensive medical evaluation.
1. Cardiovascular Disease – An estimated 18 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease, which is more than 30% of all deaths worldwide!
Screening for cardiac (heart) and vascular (blood circulation) disease should be considered in people without symptoms of a heart problem who have certain risk factors. These risk factors can significantly increase the chance that you will have a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or other types of heart problems. Initial screening is typically done with an exercise stress test, which checks the adequacy of blood circulation to your heart through the coronary arteries.
Risk factors that should prompt screening may include (among others) a history of:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) – See Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and fat)
- Cigarette Smoking
- Sedentary lifestyle (physical inactivity)
- A family history of cardiovascular disease
2. Breast Cancer – Women who are at average risk for breast cancer should consider beginning screening with a baseline mammogram at age 40. Repeating a mammogram every two years is most commonly recommended.
Most women should continue screening while their estimated remaining life expectancy is at least ten years. You may require a mammogram more frequently if you are deemed to be at higher than average risk for developing breast cancer.
The self-breast exam (SBE) is not currently recommended because of the difficulty of differentiating normal and dense breast tissue from a lump that has a high likelihood of being malignant. Women who want to perform SBE who be instructed in the proper approach and counseled that it may lead to a variety of false-positive findings.
3. Cervical Cancer – Sexually active women of average risk for cervical cancer should have a pap smear every 3-5 years, depending on their age and gynecologic history. Women who are 65 years old and older with average risk do not need to be screened for cervical cancer.
4. Ovarian Cancer – Screening is not recommended for women who are at average risk for ovarian cancer. Women who at high risk can be screened with an abdominal ultrasound (a test that uses sound waves to look at the ovaries) at an average interval of about every 6 to 12 months, depending on their particular situation.
5. Colon Cancer – People at average risk should get an initial colonoscopy at age 50. A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to examine the inside of your colon with a flexible fiber-optic instrument and to remove or biopsy any polyps, masses, and abnormal areas that are found.
Repeat colonoscopies are done every ten years if no abnormalities are found in the previous study and there is no history of colon cancer among close (first degree) relatives in your family. They may be repeated sooner if the test is abnormal. Colonoscopies should generally be stopped between the age of 75 to 85 years old.
6. Lung Cancer – Anyone with an increased risk for lung cancer should have a yearly low dose CT scan of the lungs. This includes people with a 30 pack-year history of cigarette smoking (for example 1 pack/day for 30 years or 2 packs/day for 15 years). Surveillance CT scans may be discontinued after age 75, assuming the patient has a less than 10-year additional life expectancy.
7. Prostate Cancer – Screening for prostate cancer with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test should generally not be encouraged in men with an average risk for prostate cancer who have a normal prostate examination (no prostate enlargement or nodules). Men of average risk should be counseled about the possibility of a false-positive PSA test leading potential complications from an unnecessary prostate biopsy.
8. Melanoma – If you have an average risk for skin cancer then you can have your skin monitored by your primary health care provider during routine exams. If you are above-average risk (for example a history of chronic sun exposure, previously diagnosed with skin cancer, or a family history of melanoma) then you should have periodic full-body skin examinations by a dermatologist and do routine self-skin exams.
9. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) – A one-time screening with an aortic ultrasound should be done for men at age 65 or older who smoke or have smoked cigarettes. Men of the same age group should also be screened if they have never smoked but have a close (first degree) relative who had a AAA repair or died from a AAA rupture.
10. Depression – Depression is a serious illness that affects more than 250 million people globally. True depression is different from just ” having the blues”. Having major depression can significantly increase your risk of death. Up to seven percent of all people that have been treated for depression will die by suicide.
If you think you are seriously depressed it is important to see your health care provider immediately. For additional information see How To Deal With Depression Alone – A Rejuvenating Self-Help Guide.
Other Important Screening Exams
Here are some additional screening exams that your health care provider may recommend.
Routine Medical Evaluations – It is important to get a complete medical evaluation and physical exam on a routine basis. The frequency of your evaluation will depend to a large extent on your age and medical history and can be best determined by your health care provider. During your evaluation, your weight and blood pressure will be monitored and you may receive smoking, alcohol, and depression screening. Blood tests and other studies may be ordered, as necessary.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, like a family history of high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, or obesity, then you should monitor your blood pressure at home. My number one recommendation for blood pressure machines is the Omron Gold Blood Pressure Wrist Monitor.
This is the machine that I use to monitor my blood pressure. It is accurate and very easy to use! It can store all your blood pressure on your smartphone or tablet so you can see the trend of your readings and show them to your health care provider. If you need a blood pressure machine then I strongly recommend that you buy this device.
Cholesterol and Diabetes – High cholesterol and blood sugar (diabetes) may eventually cause damage to your body, resulting in things like heart attack, kidney damage, and stroke (CVA or cerebrovascular accident). Elevated cholesterol and diabetes are both tied to excessive weight gain (obesity).
Carotid Artery Stenosis – Stenosis (narrowing) of the carotid arteries in the neck can decrease blood flow to the brain. No screening is currently recommended for individuals without symptoms of carotid stenosis or a history of a carotid narrowing or blockage.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – Peripheral artery disease causes decreased blood flow through the peripheral arteries, like the ones that bring blood to your legs. No screening is currently recommended for individuals without symptoms of PAD or a history of a PAD.
High cholesterol, diabetes, and cigarette smoking can contribute to the development of PAD as well as carotid artery stenosis.
Osteoporosis (weak bones) – Osteoporosis occurs with a much higher frequency in women (especially older postmenopausal individuals) than men. Women who are 65 or older should be screened for osteoporosis. Screening should also be done in men and women that have higher than average risk factors for either osteopenia (weakening of the bones leading to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis, like chronic steroid use.
Eye Examination – Eye exams are not just for people that need to update their eyeglass or contact lens prescription. Routine eye exams can detect serious problems such as glaucoma (high pressure inside the eye) and macular degeneration (a vision problem involving the retina), that are more common in the elderly.
Hearing Examination – Routine auditory testing can detect early hearing loss that may worsen with things like loud noise exposure and develop into a severe and permanent hearing loss. Some hearing disorders, like tinnitus (ringing in the ear), may be associated with other problems such as tumors of the inner ear or brain.
For additional tips on how to lower your risk factors for illness see 5 Hot Tips On Aging Gracefully – Look 5 Years Younger Today!
Getting routine preventive health care screening by visiting your doctor or other healthcare provider is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body and mind working at their very best. Routine screening tests are usually recommended based on your average risk for developing an illness but testing needs to be individualized to your particular situation and medical history. Completing certain screening evaluations in a timely manner could be lifesaving.
The older you get, the more important preventive health screening typically becomes. Plan to visit your health care provider routinely, especially if you have a history of serious medical problems. Your health insurance will usually pay for all or a portion of preventive screening exams that are necessary for your particular medical well-being.
Tell Us What You Think
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section, or if I can help you with anything.
- Are you having routine screening examinations?
- How have they made a positive difference in your health?
- Any tips to share and how are they helpful?