10 Screening Tests Everyone Should Consider

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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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. Report
I try to get a physical once a yr but with the current cost it is hard to keep it up.. Report
Yes, I have an annual physical. I've had all of them, like cholestrol, blood work, etc. Report
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! Report
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! Report
I have a physical annually along with most of the tests. I had my first mammogram yesterday. I had heard so many horror stories about how terrible of a test it is and painful etc. It wasn't bad at all! So if you haven't been yet, don't delay or be afraid. There's nothing to it but if it detects something early its well worth it! Report
i have pretty much all of these tests done! Report
I think I am the only one here who does not get a physical every year. I don't recall when my last one was. I do not go to the doctor unless there is a need to do so. If health care was not so expensive I might go more often. My kids come first.
In light of having said that I am going to make an appointment for a full physical as soon as possible. I have asked for one in the past and they never ran these tests on me. Report
I'm a mammographer and all I can say is please don't wait until 50 for your first mammogram. A normal read mammogram can be one of the best tools for you to know what normal is -- for you personally -- on a breast self exam. This allow you to report more quickly to a doctor if anything changes. Also ask, ask, ask, if finances are causing you to delay and you sense something is wrong...woman have donated dollars for situations just like this. Report
Every Jan/Feb I have a physical, mammogram, pap - then I go and have my eyes checked. Then I start hinting to my hubby that it is time for him to go for his annual check up. Report
Have had most of these test. Just had my first colonoscopy this past November and it wasn't so bad. Of course, if I hadn't had insurance that covered them I most likely wouldn't have had theses tests. Report
Absolutely, an ounce of prevention.. . . . So I try to keep up my annual paps & keep my kids up to date on their physicals. This year will be my 1st mammogram. Totally looking forward to it, woohoo!! : ( Report
I go for my physical check-up once a year. In fact, I have appointments for mammograms and bone density test in two weeks. Report
I have a physical scheduled for tomorrow AM. I'm going to fast and request some of these screenings. Report
Yep. I think I got them all, except for the prostate screening, that is... And I'll probably be getting them again this year. It's good to know what's what. Thanks! Report
At age 50 my doctor ordered colonscopy ( due again in 7 years), regularly have blood pressure take, pap every year, had bone density test and have annual mammograms along with my physical. Report
Medicare has specific guidelines as to how often each test can be performed in order to receive coverage. Last year I got "everything"...... Report
My Dr. routinely does all the tests all the time to keep up to date on what I need. I have no problems with that because I have medicare and medicaid. Report
I have not had any of these screenings, rather embrace my wellness by spending my money on the highest quality organic foods and trusting my wellness to wholistic medicine. Tracking my workouts on Sparkpeople has also helped my wellness thrive. Report
There's some controversy as to whether the traditional "annual physical" is actually necessary -- according to some, it's a waste of time and money. As long as you're current on everything recommended for your age, gender and health history, maybe you don't need to actually go see your doctor once a year if you're not sick. Something to think about, anyway. I get the annual pap smear and pelvic exam, but I don't get my cholesterol, BP or fasting glucose level checked annually. I don't think that there's a need, and neither does my insurance company. I get them checked every few years. I'm not at the age that the mammogram, bone density, colonoscopy or other tests are recommended. Report
Yes, I have all the test done every year. Yes, I do talk to my doctor if things not correct with me.

Thanks for this article. Report
I have a physical about everyother year, all have come back good so hope it stays that way. I had the colonoscopy a year ago and am pretty regular with the other test as my doctor calls for it. Report
I have had one every 6 months with blood work, pap and mammogram as I am being watche because of my type 2 diabetes. However I will refuse a colonoscopy. Several of our friends ahve had this test done because they are over 50. the test itself has caused acute damage to their system. they have not been the same since. Unless I ahve actual need for worry to have a screening I will refuse the test. Report
I have had one nearly every year for several years, and the only problem was that my doctor would suggest I work on losing some weight, even though my BP, glocose and cholesterol were fine. Also had a mammo, Pap and colonoscopy at age 50. Last year, after 18 mos on SP and a loss of 50 lbs and more normal results, and a ton of compliments on the weight loss, she told me I was clear till 2010 except for a mini-physical (breast exam and any questions or problems I might want to talk about.) Of course then (at age 60) I'll have to do the full program again, but it was a great reward for my efforts. Report
If my physician had not been astute, I would not have had my first bone density scan and coloscopy in my mid 40's. I was found to have osteopenia and had polyps removed. I have been on Fosamax since as well as calcium supplements to prevent any worsening of my condition. Without these tests when I had them, I would have full blown osteoporosis and been at higher risk for colorectal cancer. Report
sherry wilson Report
I have a physical every year no matter if I need it or not!
I'm good on all but 7 & 8 ... not old enough for 7 and not eligible for 8!
GREAT reminder to everybody to take care and be proactive in our health! Report
I too get checked every year. Prevention is the key. With the info you can begain to fix any issues you may have with being overweight. Usually this can be corrected with diet, medicine, and exercise. Knowledge is power. I want to be proactive in my health. Report
This is a great article. It's great because in one spot you can read about the 10 tests that eveyone should get, and WHY we should get them. Thank you SP! Report
Do you have an annual physical? Yes!
What tests do you have done regularly? Blood glucose, Blood pressure, Iron levels (history of LOW levels) , (weight & abdominal circumference), and cholesterol.
So far everything is fine. Those were last year; this year I only had my BP checked at the annual screening. Report
I just completed my annual physical...this time my blood pressure was normal (controlled by medication) my bad cholesterol was down by 45 points and my good was "good" by my dr's estimation. The biggest concern was a "slightly" elevated sugar level. With a history of diabetes in our family, this was a pretty big FLAG to me, so I orderded the book "The Sugar Solution" that Prevention Magazine put out... eye opening. now with SP and better book knowledge, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel... Report
I get an annual checkup, but unless my doctor recommends those tests then they cost big $$ with my insurance! Report
I get an annual physical. My doctor does the normal listening & looking, checking weight, blood pressure, pelvic & breast exams. She also screens for skin cancer. I used to get a pap every year, but now they recommend every 3 years since mine have all been normal. I last had a lipid test about 3 yrs ago; it was at the high end of normal. I have never had my blood sugar tested, and I'm too young (or the wrong gender) for the other tests listed above. :)

It surprises me that people don't get checkups, even sometimes people with insurance. Blood pressure and skin cancer tests in particular are so easy to do. However seeing a doctor can be very expensive if you don't have insurance. It's great that health fairs and drug stores can offer some of these tests as well. Report
I get an annual physical EVERY year that checks all of the things listed above. Report
I had a free lipid panel done in February as part of a Heart Association Health Fair. I check my own blood pressure regularly at home. My immunizations are up-to-date. We need comprehensive national health coverage so everyone can practice preventive health care and lower costs. "An ounce of prevention is worth about ten tons of cure." Report