I’ve written a bit about the importance of preventive medicine, emphasizing that as part of a healthy lifestyle, even normal adults should have periodic preventive checkups.
There are many reasons/goals your doctor may have for these checkups: following up on treatments for illness, evaluating reviewing risk factors and symptoms, performing a thorough physical exam, ensuring up-to-date vaccinations, performing recommended screening tests, and giving general counselling on important physical and mental health considerations. As a normal, healthy adult, you should try to get in to see your primary care doctor for a checkup every 2-3 years. Certainly if you have a disease or risk factor, your doctor may want to follow up with you on a more frequent basis to evaluate treatments or developments. Personally, for my healthy adult patients I would ideally prefer the chance to check up with them at least every couple of years, though not necessarily for testing; checkups are a great opportunity for me to converse with patients and follow up on their diet, exercise, mental health, family and work life and to offer possible changes and goals going forward.
A big part of the preventive checkup is anticipating the common health problems in certain populations, and trying to detect those problems in a sensible and cost-effective way through screening tests: the idea is to test you for that common disease every so often (even if you feel fine) so that, if you do have the condition, odds are it is caught early on and thus more easily and effectively treated. Health organizations like the WHO or CDC have established standard screenings that should be done periodically for all adults, no matter how healthy: I’ve tried to summarize these recommended preventive screenings in the following list.
Cardiovascular risk screening Every adult should have checkups on their cardiovascular risk – with blood pressure and body measurement and certain blood tests (like colesterol, blood sugar, or others) – at least every 3-5 years. If you have certain risk factors, and as you approach your 40s and beyond, your doctor will recommend more frequent checkups or supplemental exams.
Cervical cancer screening in women — All women should start cervical cancer screening with PAP cytology tests at age 21, and these tests should be done every 3 years. Once you reach age 30, you should ask your doctor about screening with a co-test (PAP test with HPV test), which only needs to be done every 5 years in normal circumstances. As you reach 65 years of age, your doctor may discuss stopping this screening.
Breast cancer screening in women — All women starting at age 50 should undergo breast cancer screening with a mammogram every 2-3 years. Your doctor may want to start this screening earlier depending on your family history and risk factors. As you reach 75 years of age, your doctor may discuss stopping this screening.
Colon cancer screening — All adults age 50 to 75 should undergo screening for colon cancer with a colonoscopy. In normal circumstances, this test should be performed every 10 years; if you are unable to have this performed, your doctor can recommend alternative screening tests and schedules. Depending on your family history and risk factors, your doctor may recommend starting this screening earlier.
Osteoporosis screening All postmenopausal women starting at age 65 should have screening for osteoporosis with bone mineral density testing. Your doctor may recommend starting this screening earlier depending on risk factors you may present. In normal circumstances this testing can be performed every 10-15 years, but your doctor may recommend more frequent screening.
Don’t be a stranger! Get in to see your primary care doctor every few years and make sure you are having your recommended screening tests done! For those of you in the Costa del Este area feel free to stop by Medpoint PTY Clinic for your checkup today!