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?