10 Screening Tests Everyone Should Consider

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/18/2009 1:10 PM   :  80 comments

With health care cost rising at an alarming rate, having a list of common screening tests to ask your health care provider about may help keep you on the path of healthy living. While many of these tests are not diagnostic in nature, they do allow your doctor to determine if you are at greater risk for developing certain diseases or ailments.

Some of these tests are age specific, nevertheless, if you have a family history of a specific disease, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, or early onset osteoporosis, it is important to discuss your options with your doctor to determine what is best for you.

1. Fasting Blood Glucose: With type II diabetes on the rise, this test is crucial for determining your risk for developing this disease. This test measures the amount of glucose or sugar in your blood after a minimum 8 hour fast.

2. Lipid Profile: This test measures your total cholesterol, LDL also known as low density lipoprotein (or bad cholesterol), HDL also known as high density lipoprotein (or good cholesterol), and triglycerides done via a blood sample. It is recommended that a baseline test be done when an individual enters their 20's. If results are normal, it is generally recommended that testing be repeated every 5 years or as recommended by your physician.

3. Blood Pressure: Twenty percent of Americans suffer from hypertension, however many of those afflicted with the condition are asymptomatic. In others words they do not present with any outward symptoms. But if you have a history of dizziness, headaches, and/or visual disturbances please do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

4. Pap Smear: Many women often neglect this vital test once past their child bearing years, but it is important to note that cervical cancer can be asymptomatic until the cancer is well advanced.

5. Mammograms: Timing for mammography has been up for debate as to when the initial screening should begin. The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women begin routine mammography at age 40 and a follow-up every 1-2 years after the initial screening. Other organizations such as the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend initial screening at age 50. Talk with your doctor to help determine the best timing for you.

6. Skin Cancer Screening: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Early diagnosis is essential for survival, especially with malignant melanoma. Each May many hospitals around the country hold free skin cancer screenings in conjunction with local dermatologists in support of Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

7. Bone Density Screening: This test commonly referred to as a DEXA scan or Dual X-ray absorptiometry is recommend for all women over the age of 65. However, this test can be done much earlier if a woman has a history of anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, an early hysterectomy or any other ailment that may increase one’s risk for osteoporosis.

8. Prostate Screening: Just as there is a debate over when mammography testing should begin, same is true regarding prostate screening. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) are generally recommended for men between the age of 50 and 75, however, if you or your husband is at high risk, please ask your doctor about earlier testing.

9. Thyroid Screening: Although thyroid issues are more common in women than men, according to the American Thyroid Association every person over the age of 35 should be screened. Unfortunately, low thyroid levels can cause symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and weight change which may be misinterpreted as other ailments.

10. Colonoscopy: As mentioned in an earlier blog, colon cancer is the second most fatal form of cancer after lung cancer. Having a baseline colonoscopy at age 50, or sooner if there is a family history, is fundamental to early diagnosis and treatment.

These are just some of the more common screenings your health care provider may recommend, but it is important for you to keep track of your own health and wellness. If you experience any change in your health, it is always best to err on the side of caution and follow up with your health care provider. Being proactive versus reactive may help prevent further issues down the road.

Also it is very important to keep tabs on your vaccine schedule. If you have not had tetanus shot within the last 10 years please let your doctor know. With the rising number of whopping cough cases here in the U.S. your doctor may suggest a pertussis booster along with your tetanus injection.

Do you have an annual physical? What tests do you have done regularly? Do you follow up with your doctor if you receive any abnormal results?


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Comments

  • 80
    As I have several of the illnesses that these tests find the results for I get the test more often. I am diabetic II, have high cholesterol, have acid reflux, and high blood pressure, breast cancer runs in the family and so doesn't skin cancer and colon cancer.. I also have a low thyroind.


    Becky - 12/17/2009   12:47:59 AM
  • 79
    I live in Western North Carolina and there is a program here that offers low-to no cost mamograms. It is called Ladies Night Out. It is a once a month thing. There are also health fairs in places like malls that will check your lipid, glucose and bp. For those who have no insurance, this may be something you can look into in the place you live. - 3/27/2009   9:51:17 AM
  • CATHYBELL7
    78
    I would love to have all the test done that a woman needs , but with no ins. that gets pretty costly. - 3/24/2009   4:01:56 PM
  • 77
    Take time to visit my Spark Page & many will see just how much you could learn about your health, weight & life by observing these Test! - 3/22/2009   3:57:41 PM
  • CHICKFORCHRIST
    76
    I have a yearly screening through work and it comes right out of our insurance. There is no out of pocket expense. Short of paps and mammograms, they cover almost all of the tests mentioned, and some not mentioned. I like it because it helps me get back in focus to what needs work and what I have gotten done in the past year. - 3/22/2009   2:15:38 PM
  • 75
    I go for an annual physical yearly and get those tests mammo and pap. Have had the test for colon, hdl and diabetic test too! - 3/22/2009   9:53:22 AM
  • 74
    I have an annual physical, pap smear, lipid profile, hypertension testing, AIC test and mammogram. A lot of these tests are free at health fairs or low cost at sliding scale health care centers.
    If I have abnormal test results; I seek further advice from my doctor. - 3/22/2009   8:19:29 AM
  • 73
    LOSINGSLOW I'm glad I read your post. I've had all the others except - you guessed it! This is something I really need to get done, NOW! - 3/22/2009   12:19:38 AM
  • PINKICEPRINCESS
    72
    I use to have great insurance and did all test and physicals but when the economy slowed down and insurance cost going up i had to let it go - 3/21/2009   3:13:58 PM
  • 71
    I get 4, 3 and 1 yearlly - 3/20/2009   7:09:11 PM
  • BIBLECHICK
    70
    Thanks for the article--sums it all up in one handy place. - 3/20/2009   2:51:27 PM
  • 69
    no health insurance here, so no regular testing schedule. I know my tetanus shot needs updating! Will have to do that when I can. There are other things I'll get checked out one day when we can afford to. I know my husband needs some tests too. - 3/20/2009   1:01:27 PM
  • KAYFEINE
    68
    I'm 43 years young and have gotten most of these screening tests. I've been good about mammograms, blood sugars, lipid profile. I work at a hospital that offers some of these tests free or reduced cost. I've also had a DEXA scan because my mom had osteoporosis. Turns out I have osteopenia (1 step away!). I didn't know you could get thyroid screenings. Even though my mom had colon cancer, my doc won't let me get colonoscopy 'cus he thinks my insurance wont pay for it, and I don't live the same way my mom did. But in talking to a GI doc, he says I need to get one done - STAT! Anyway, great article! Kay - 3/20/2009   12:05:11 PM
  • 67
    I have to echo others. Get regular screenings done! No matter how healthy your diet or how active you are, you can still end up with and of these conditions and many of them only become symptomatic when they're progressed. Since my brother was diagnosed with both type II diabetes and heart disease early last year - both things that are prevalent in my family, I'm a convert. I have health insurance, but its not very good. I spent a lot of money last year on these tests and more, when I had symptoms and we needed to figure out what was going on. Your life is worth the money! - 3/20/2009   11:34:42 AM
  • 66
    I haven't reached the age where a colonoscopy or bone density are necessary, I don't have a prostate being female, otherwise I get all the tests as recommended. Actually, because of my thyroid issues, my MD does my lipid screening annually. - 3/20/2009   10:21:19 AM
  • 65
    Im having my first colonoscopy screening done next week..im a little nervous but i do realize this is important..as are all the other tests...please if possible get all those tests done.... - 3/20/2009   9:52:49 AM
  • 64
    I have a pap & physical exam every single year, have done so since I was 18. We found iffy cells a while ago, and took care of that. My dr always checks blood pressure, cholesterol, complete blood workup. For many years, that exam is the one and only time I see a doctor - but to me, the checkup is worth the time and expense.

    Same with a mammogram - and, having several friends going through breast cancer, I know the importance of that one.

    However, I had major problems with the colonoscopy, and will never ever do that again. (It's a family thing with how our intestines loop around.) They'll just have to figure out something else for me. - 3/20/2009   8:31:40 AM
  • 63
    I have all of these that I'm old enough for. I have blood work once every 4 months to keep tabs on my cholesterol and also have my blood pressure checked regularly.. - 3/20/2009   7:51:01 AM
  • 62
    I do most of these, but one that isn't listed is an annual Eye exam.
    Not necessarily for glasses (though I do wear them), but any issues that could develop as a result of high blood pressure or diabetes...being a Diabetic that is a concern for me.
    - 3/20/2009   6:11:24 AM
  • 61
    A lot of these tests "everyone" should consider are not routinely done before the age of 40. Among tests that include younger people, I definitely stress the importance of staying up to date on your screening for sexually transmitted infections. Many student centres or local health clinics will screen you free of charge. Some will even include medications if they turn out to be needed. - 3/20/2009   4:51:57 AM
  • JUNKSTUFF1
    60
    I have regular physicals and my doctor draws blood for the tests she deems necessary. And she keeps telling me to continue to focus on holistic methods of staying healthy--despite my excessive weight, my cholesterol and triglycerides are in the lower limits of normal and my blood pressure is also at the lower limits of normal. She has told me more than once that if she didn't have to put down weight on her records, anyone would assume I don't have a spare pound on me and am healthy as a horse. I love having an MD who focuses on holistics! - 3/19/2009   11:25:28 PM
  • 59
    I understand what some of you said about these tests being expensive. Our family had no insurance for several years, so I skipped having physical exams. During a doctor visit to address a bad case of bronchitis, the receptionist told me about a program our state (Calif) has that will pay for cancer screening type tests such as pap smears and mammograms. I had no idea such a program existed. Please check with your doctor or state/county health department and ask what programs exist where you live. - 3/19/2009   8:59:30 PM
  • 58
    I go every year for my yearly check up. I also have some of the other tests done, every few years. I have the mammogram, bone density, blood tests, and colonoscopy. Whatever test that I need to have done. Trying to do what's best for my health. It is worth going to have the test done, and put up with a little inconvience, if necessary. It could be a matter of being healthy, or not being here, anymore. - 3/19/2009   8:36:43 PM
  • 57
    I too follow my doctors orders. I have too many health conditions not to. I do know several people that do not however, and talking to them does not help ya know! - 3/19/2009   7:12:34 PM
  • 56
    I've had everything except for the skin cancer screening and the bone density test, and naturally no prostate exam! I've had a mammogram every year since I turned 40, pap smears every six months, my throid checked every six months and had my first colonoscopy last year after I turned 50. I have my bp checked at least once a month, and the blood tests done annually. Thanks for the article, it reminded me that I haven't had a tetanus shot since 1996! - 3/19/2009   7:09:15 PM
  • 55
    I keep up with what my doctor orders, I have several medical issues and have had all the tests except 6 & 8n/a. I am 41 and had the colonoscopy and endoscopy 10 years ago to diagnose Acid Reflux, and IBS-neither one of them were very fun for me as I have a very sensitive gag reflex, but was very glad they figured out why I had nausea and vomiting almost daily for months. I am glad to have a job that has insurance(partially paid by me) and when I was off work I went and signed up for medicaid, we pay taxes just like everyone else and should be able to use the services if needed and we qualify. To all the people that say they don't have the money, if you think you need something do research in your area alot of places have clinics and have special services for lower incomes. - 3/19/2009   7:05:01 PM
  • 54
    I had my annual lab work, physical, etc. in December and they found something in the urinalysis that we may not have discovered for a long time otherwise. I've had no symptoms whatsoever, other than a general feeling of fatigue (which is pretty non-specific). I was before, but even more now, a big supporter of annual checkups. If there is something to be found, rather find it early than too late. - 3/19/2009   6:11:04 PM
  • 53
    Thanks for sharing this! I see at least 3 tests I'm going to ask my doctor about. I've had the colonoscopy(the devil's revenge for trying to live right) and I get blood pressure and mammograms regularly. So far, so good! - 3/19/2009   5:23:04 PM
  • 52
    Good reminders--thanks. I do have all the applicable tests on a regular basis, thanks to my thoughtful doctor, who helps me keep track.

    I am now 54, & a couple of years back I started seeing a dermatologist yearly. During the first exam she worked with an assistant & did an overall "mole map," writing down location & dimensions of every mole that was above a certain size. Since then she has been able to use that "map" to see if anything has grown or changed. It's very reassuring to have this done, as even my husband doesn't see my back on a regular basis! - 3/19/2009   4:10:57 PM
  • 51
    I get annual check ups and have had every test, except #8, done in the last 5 years. It is well worth the peace of mind. - 3/19/2009   3:26:40 PM
  • 50
    So many tests...so little time. Priorties are important! - 3/19/2009   2:07:04 PM
  • 49
    thank goodness for OHIP coverage. I go annually. - 3/19/2009   12:55:04 PM
  • HANNAHBANANA22
    48
    I lost 2 good girl friends last year because they didnot want to do these tests or use medicine to prevent problems. Lost, 2 of my oldest pals who I miss daily.
    I know guilt....and you could consider who you are leaving behind by not taking care of yourself. - 3/19/2009   12:40:55 PM
  • 47
    I too have most of these tests. At 60 my physician told me I only need a pap every 3 years so he didn't do one this year. I also have an endoscopy as well as the colonoscopy because I have Barretts Disease. So I get to be scoped both ways, but am under so it doesn't really matter. - 3/19/2009   12:01:49 PM
  • 46
    This comes in handy as i have a doc appointment soon and will ask about some of the test thanks - 3/19/2009   11:56:19 AM
  • COLLOMR
    45
    I don't get an annual physical nor do I feel it is important - the last time I did get one, I thought this is a waste of time. I also have not had any of those tests done and I probably won't unless I feel I have a problem. I know I am healthy and I know what things are hereditary for me. I would rather spend my time and money on other things. - 3/19/2009   11:36:49 AM
  • CHILGIRL
    44
    I have had an colonospy, thyroid, kidney, white&red blood cell count,etc.,I also
    get a mamogram every year & pap test;I've had bone density test done in early
    40's.I do not have much money at all;My mother just passed away after a long
    battle with COPD, I've worked with Alzheimer patients, so I take my health serious.I try to eat good and exercise.I walk everywhere.I DO NOT HAVE MUCH MONEY AT ALL!I have also had the eye exam that checkeds behind your eyes=that was a couple of years ago and I need to get it done consistently.I DO WHAT I CAN. - 3/19/2009   10:44:22 AM
  • 43
    I wish I could afford to have all of those tests done on my husband and I. We simply don't have the money for them. - 3/19/2009   9:57:07 AM
  • 42
    I do have an annual physical every year. I have a history of ovarian cancer and colon cancer (Mom's side and Dad's side, respectively), so I have been getting mammogram and pap every year (the former since I turned 40), and just had my first colonoscopy last year (at age 42). I have had more fasting blood glucose, lipid tests, and thyroid tests over the years than I can shake a stick at. I'm too young for the bone density testing (I'm 43), but as I had a hysterectomy at age 37, I will definitely talk with my GP about it every year, to be sure I'm not missing anything. I also have not had a skin cancer screening, but I have an appointment with the dermatologist in a few months, and hope he'll do that for me then. Thanks for the great article! And my two cents' worth on the insurance? Find a way to get these tests done, no matter what the cost. You only live one life, and IMO it should be as healthy a life as possible! - 3/19/2009   9:05:45 AM
  • 41
    I want to know who can afford all these tests? I just had to drop my health insurance at the age of 54 because they doubled the cost and I could no longer afford to have that taken out of my paycheck, besides the coverage was weak at best. I had all this done about 5 yrs ago and a charity had to pay for all my lab tests! - 3/19/2009   8:11:16 AM
  • 40
    I want to address all the people who feel that these tests are not necessary... I DO go to my doctor for my physical, have my mammogram, bone density, blood work, etc. When I turned 50, I sort of skirted the colonoscopy issue and convinced myself I didn't need to have one yet. See my physical occurred prior to my 50th birthday so by not reminding my doctor of that milestone, she didn't think to order my colonoscopy that year. A year later, as I was turning 51, she did say it was time for me to have one and, reluctantly, I agreed to it... The prep sucked, but I got through it. The following morning, I went in and had the procedure. It wasn't bad. I was in a twilight zone and nothing hurt - until after the procedure was over and the doctor came in to tell me I had colon cancer!!!! No symptoms, no illness, constant attention to medical needs. I now have a scar that runs from the bottom of my breast bone to my pubic bone. I have 40cm less of a descending colon and still have battles with getting my bowel activity correct. I spend all day, every other week, having toxic chemicals pumped into my body (chemotherapy) and the week following that sick to my stomach. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!! Just because you are 'healthy', follow a healthy diet, eat organically, practice holistic medicine, etc, does not mean you don't need these tests! If I had gone to my colonoscopy a year earlier, there may have been nothing there but it is also possible that my 12cm tumor may have been a polyp that could have been removed at that point and spared me all this surgery, chemotherapy and illness. Get these tests done. Make sure your family does too! - 3/19/2009   8:11:00 AM
  • 39
    I am a Mammographer and also do Bone Density testing. Please, please make sure your technologist is a registered tech with special training in Mammography. As to see her credentials if they are not posted on the wall. You only get this test once a year and if she is not qualified and misses something you won't know that until the next one. Twelve months is a lifetime, just ask a breast cancer patient. - 3/19/2009   8:05:08 AM
  • 38
    I recently turned 50 and my doctor at my yearly physical let me know about all these tests. It will be a busy spring but at least I know where I stand for my health. The cost is worth it to know I am healthy - 3/19/2009   7:55:19 AM
  • 37
    Have had all test but bone density..haven't hit the age yet, and prostrate (for obvious reason) but I keep after hubby on that one.....have had to do follow-ups on questionable mammograms but thankfully they turned out ok on the 2nd screening..very important test but the cost will keep many from not having - 3/19/2009   7:16:31 AM
  • 36
    Get info thank you for sharing. - 3/19/2009   7:15:38 AM
  • 35
    Great article. I recently read in "Dear Abby" about an urine test that measures protein to determine if you have kidney disease. I'll be asking about that the next time I see my urologist. I've also found it helpful to have all test results sent to me as well as my doctor. There have been several things that my G.P. didn't discuss with me that might have prevented more serious back conditions if I had known about them earlier. - 3/19/2009   5:44:34 AM
  • 34
    I try to get a physical once a yr but with the current cost it is hard to keep it up.. - 3/19/2009   1:50:27 AM
  • 33
    Yes, I have an annual physical. I've had all of them, like cholestrol, blood work, etc. - 3/19/2009   1:39:32 AM
  • SHERI1969
    32
    I am soooo glad somebody finally included medical issues into this lifestyle change. I have 30 medical conditions, some of the ones listed above. I take medications for ALL of them. So you can imagine that some days I CAN'T exercise and I CANNOT EVER exercise in the morning. The only exercise I CAN do right now is walk. And at that, it has to be normal walking, not speed walking, and for general walking, there is no tracker. I have to balance it. I am SO glad to see somebody finally addressing medical concerns and weight issues. THANK YOU! - 3/19/2009   12:35:05 AM
  • 31
    I have an annual physical. I also have a fasting blood sugar every 6 months. Last one was better, after losing 10 pounds. Can't wait to see the next one after losing 37 lbs! - 3/18/2009   10:32:00 PM

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