Getting preventive care is one of the most important steps you can take to manage your health. That's because when a condition is diagnosed early, it is usually easier to treat. Regular checkups can help you and your doctor identify lifestyle changes you can make to avoid certain conditions. Health screenings are also an important part of managing your personal health and wellbeing.
Common Tests and Screenings:
A blood glucose test measures the amount of sugar called glucose in a sample of blood. The finger is pricked by a small needle and blood is collected to obtain the blood sample that will be inserted into a handheld machine called a glucometer, which is used to measure the amount of glucose in the blood sample. In order to obtain the most accurate results you should not eat or drink anything 8 hours before the glucose test. This test should be done if you have signs of diabetes or are at risk of becoming diabetic. The blood glucose test is also used to monitor patients who have diabetes.
A cholesterol test measures the amount of total cholesterol that is contained in a sample of blood. The finger is pricked by a small needle and blood is collected to obtain the blood sample that will be inserted in a machine, which is used to measure the amount of cholesterol that is present in the blood sample. A cholesterol test is different than most test in that it does not diagnose a disease but is used to estimate the risk of developing a disease such as heart disease. Cholesterol testing is considered part of preventative health care. All adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol tested at least once every 5 years.
Blood Pressure Screening
A blood pressure test is used to measure the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is measured by using a device called a sphygmomanometer which will be placed tightly around the upper arm. Once the sphygmomanometer is placed around the arm a pump will be used to inflate the sphygmomanometer to stop the blood flow through the artery for a few seconds. The sphygmomanometer will be slowly deflated to allow blood flow back through the artery. The person taking your blood pressure will use a stethoscope to hear the blood flow through the artery and will use a numbered dial to record the blood pressure reading. A normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80.
Stroke Risk Assessment
The stroke risk assessment will estimate your risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years in comparison to others in your age group. In order to obtain an accurate stroke risk assessment the patient must answer a few personal health questions related to stroke risk factors. Once the questions have been completed you will have your blood pressure measured to obtain an accurate blood pressure reading on site. The information obtained from your health risk assessment and your blood pressure reading will be entered into a computer based system called the Stanford Stroke Risk Assessment Test, this database will use the personal health information and risk factors that you have identified to calculate your stroke risk. The results will be measured in a percentage.
Heart Rhythm Screening
A heart rhythm screening is able to identify an irregular heartbeat. A technologist will apply 4 pads called electrodes to the body, on the wrists and to the chest area. The machine will then measure about a 10 second span of your heart rhythm to detect if an abnormal rhythm is present. Once the test is complete the technician will provide you with the results.
Being at increased risk doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get skin cancer. But, you may need to start regular (annual) screening exams. So if you do get cancer, your doctor finds it at its earliest stage. When found early, the chances for successfully treating the disease are greatest.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States each year. But many men are unsure whether or when they should be screened for the disease. Men are at increased risk of prostate cancer if they are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer. Men 40 years or older at increased risk for prostate cancer should meet with their primary care physicians to discuss whether screening is a good idea. MD Anderson recommends screening for prostate cancer every year starting at age 45 years for men at increased risk.
Breast cancer screening exams help find breast cancer at an early stage. When found early, the chances for successfully treating the disease are greatest.
The screening recommendations below apply to most women.
- Age 20 to 39: Clinical breast exam every 1 to 3 years (A health care provider checks for lumps or other changes.)
- Age 40 to 75: Clinical breast exam and mammogram every year
Women have the greatest risk for osteoporosis after menopause, due to a decrease in estrogen which helps prevent bone loss. Talk to your doctor about how often to screen for osteoporosis; this timing depends on your age and health history.
Women should begin having Pap tests no later than at age 21. Women under 30 should be screened every 1-2 years; after 30 and after 3 normal pap results this may be changed to every 2-3 years, if no other risk factors are involved.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer appears most often in people over 50. The American Cancer Society recommends that screening colonoscopies begin at age 50, and screenings should be done at least every 10 years.
If you have a strong family history of cancer, you may be interested in genetic screening.
People who should be screened for lung cancer
- 55-77 years of age
- Current smokers, or former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years
- Have a smoking history of 30 packs/year or greater. 30 packs of cigarettes per year is equal to one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years.