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Regular check-ups and health screenings are important parts of maintaining health. However, it can be confusing to decide which screenings are right for you since your risks may be dependent on several factors including age, sex, lifestyle, and family history.
US Preventive Services Task Force The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force is a national, independent panel of experts in disease prevention are a leading source for recommendations on preventive services.
They help healthcare professionals decide what screening services to recommend for patients based on individual patient risk factors and are informed by high-quality evidence. Oftentimes, insurance providers and Medicare will include coverage for screenings supported by these recommendations and your primary care provider can often perform them at your yearly check-up or provide a referral for a specialist. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which services are right for you based on your own individual risks.
What screenings should you expect to have?
Several health screenings are recommended for all adults. You may be familiar with some of the yearly recommended screenings typically performed at your annual doctor’s visit like blood pressure checks for hypertension and blood glucose tests for diabetes. Some pharmacies will offer such services at more frequent intervals if recommended by your doctor. Certain screenings can be as simple as questionnaires or simple tools such as screenings for depression, which are recommended at every doctor’s visit. Other screenings may be done with a simple blood test at your primary care visit, like a Hepatitis C screening, which is recommended for all adults of a certain age range. Finally, some will require a referral to have testing done at a facility with the proper equipment. For instance, a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer may be recommended every 5 to 10 years depending on your age and specific risk factors like family history. However, in some cases, screening with an at-home test like Cologuard can be substituted for a colonoscopy if you are at a lower risk.
Screenings for people with at-risk conditions Some conditions or lifestyles put you at a higher risk for certain diseases.
Based on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for those diseases. For instance, certain risk factors like family history, smoking, past viral infections, and sun exposure can increase the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer. Yearly lung cancer screenings with non-invasive imaging are recommended for people ages 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and have smoked within the last 15 years. Skin cancer screenings are also recommended yearly for people at-risk based on sun exposure and fair skin tones. Certain infectious diseases may also go unrecognized and are important to be screened for in patients at higher risk. Screening for Hepatitis B and certain sexually transmitted diseases may be recommended based on specific risk factors. Additionally, recent travel to at-risk areas may put you at higher risk for diseases like tuberculosis, which should be tested for since it can lay inactive without any signs or symptoms.
Tests specifically for men
In addition to physical examinations for testicular cancer, prostate cancer screening may be recommended based on family history since it is one of the leading causes of cancer in men. It is important for men to discuss with their doctor their family history and options for prostate cancer screenings including the digital rectal exam or a blood test for prostate serum antigen levels.
Additionally, men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked are also recommended to have a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Tests specifically for women
One of the most prevalent types of cancer in women is breast cancer. The recommendations for when and how often to have screenings are dependent on family history, but women should routinely discuss with their doctors the need for mammograms between the ages of 40 to 75. Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should also have a pap smear to test for cervical cancer every 3 years. Finally, all women 65 and older should be screened for osteoporosis due to how common the condition is for older women. However, women younger than 65 and older men may be candidates for osteoporosis screenings based on other risk factors.
Importance of screening Regular check-ups are a critical step toward ensuring you remain healthy.
Early intervention for chronic diseases can drastically improve outcomes and these screening tests allow for doctors to catch these diseases before they progress. Be sure to keep up with your yearly visits and ask your doctor or pharmacist what health screenings are right for you.
My name is Ryan McCormick, I am a P4 student at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy on rotation with Hawthorne Pharmacy this month. I was born and raised in Columbia and look forward to pursuing residency training after I graduate in May.