Better safe than sorry
PANAMA. If you are visiting a doctor for the first time you ware asked to complete a questionnaire, and you may have wondered why it so...
PANAMA. If you are visiting a doctor for the first time you ware asked to complete a questionnaire, and you may have wondered why it so long, especially if you have no apparent illness. Well that is usually just the beginning. Here are some of the tests that your doctor might recommend before giving you a clean bill of health
MEDICAL SCREENING TESTS
These are medical tests used to detect diseases and are usually performed on patients who have no signs or symptoms of a particular malady. Tests and exams vary, according to your age, sex, family medical history, and other risk factors detected by your doctor (now you know why our new patient questionnaires are so long!). The most frequently ordered medical tests screen for risk factors indicating cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis and glaucoma.
1. CARDIOVASCULAR RISK
These tests show the possibility of damage to your arteries and your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. Some of the tests you will want:
Blood Pressure Screening. This check should be done at every medical visit. Your chances of having high blood pressure increase with age, and family history. It usually starts at age 20, and if you do not go to the doctor often, you should check it at least every three years.
Cholesterol Screening. Try to do this every five years, or more often, if previous tests indicated a high cholesterol level. Start at age 20, if not earlier.
Diabetes Screening. Do this test every three years, or more frequently, if a close relative has had diabetes, or if you have “metabolic syndrome”, or are overweight.
2. CANCER RISK
These are the more commonly performed tests, done more often in women than in men (because women attend to the doctor more often..!
Colon Cancer Screening. Tests should be done especially from age 50 to 75. Several methods, like fecal occult blood in stool, three samples in three different days (should be performed annually). A double contrast barium enema, every 5 years (needs preparation with enemas and laxatives). A colonoscopy, every ten years (Also need some preparation). This is the most recommended procedure, because you can also remove polyps at the time they are found. If you had a close relative with cancer (father or mother, brother, or son), your colonoscopy should began ten years earlier than the age when your relative developed the cancer, or at age 50.
Breast Cancer Screening. Every woman should start self-breast examination from age 20 and have a clinician-performed breast examination every six to 12 months. Mammography is recommended at age 40, and then annually.
Cervix Cancer Screening. A Pap smear test is used detect this type of cancer and should be first done at least three years after the onset of sexual activity or at age 21.
This should be done even if you are a lesbian, since Papilloma virus infections are also found in women that never have had intercourse with a man. Usually, you can stop your pap smear tests if you had a hysterectomy for a benign illness, or after age 65, if you have had regular and negative screening.
Melanoma Skin Cancer Exam. An exam every five years is recommended.
Prostate Cancer Exam and Tests. Have this checked, especially, from age 40. This includes a digital exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test done annually.
In Latin America, men are at more risk due to the “machismo” culture making the men averse to a digital exam. Remember, you can have prostate cancer with a normal PSA reading, and you can be ‘clean’ with a high reading. More tests and a biopsy may be required to be sure.
3. OSTEOPOROSIS SCREENING.
Check for this every two years in women after age 50, or earlier, if there are high risk factors, like the frequent use of steroids. Men can also suffer osteoporosis.
4. GLAUCOMA TESTING.
Check for this condition every three to five years until age 65, then do it every one to two years.
Remember, by following this health check-up “menu”, you will catch many small problems before they develop into major health crises, thereby, saving your time, your money, and maybe, your life.