WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN GETTING YOUR HEALTH CHECK
When you come in for your health check, your doctor may ask you about your past medical history, current medications, allergies, depression signs, as well as smoking, alcohol, and recreational drug usage. Other items that may be discussed could include your family history, social history, nutritional and fitness status. This information can be used to help individualize your specific risks for such things as heart disease and diabetes. This can help personalize the scope of any follow up testing. The health check is also an opportunity to share any specific health concerns you may have with your doctor.
Important preventative medicine topics often addressed during the course of your health check may include:
Living in Australia exposes us to more UV radiation via the sun than most other places on Earth. The risks of skin cancer are higher here than in other places in the world. This risk increases in those of us with a family history of melanoma, or for those of us who spend more time in the sun via our work or recreational activities. There are no formalized guidelines for routine skin screening, but the general consensus is that we should begin annual skin checks by age 40. Skin checks are often performed more regularly, and earlier, in higher risk populations. It is important to note that a full skin check will need to be set up as a separate appointment due to the time required to complete this.
HEART AND VASCULAR HEALTH
The rate of strokes and heart attacks goes up as we age. Your family history, smoking status, fitness levels and diet are all important factors in predicting your specific risk. There are guidelines that help to determine when screening should be started.
It is important to have a blood pressure check every 2 years, beginning at age 18. You may be encouraged to have your blood pressure checked more often, depending on your situation and level of risk. If you take medication for blood pressure and have good blood pressure readings, your doctor will probably advise you to have your pressure checked every 6 months.
Your cholesterol levels are part of your heart and vascular health risk profile. In low risk individuals, the recommendation is to have your cholesterol checked every 5 years, beginning at age 45. The frequency of this testing increases in those with higher risks (pre-existing diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and previously documented heart disease or stroke).
Prostate cancer screening guidelines have changed considerably recently. Routine prostate cancer blood testing (PSA) and digital rectal exam (DRE) are no longer recommended in asymptomatic men of any age. However, the approach to your prostate health can be discussed with your doctor, and testing is still available for those who prefer. Higher risk men: those with a brother or father with prostate cancer diagnosed prior to age 65, may warrant a more active approach to prostate cancer screening.
Diabetes type 2 is an increasingly common disease. It is recommended to begin screening for diabetes at age 40 in all individuals. The frequency, and initiation, of this screening varies depending on your level of risk of developing diabetes. Guidelines recommended blood testing for diabetes every 1-3 years, predicated on your risk level.
Those at increased risk of diabetes include those with: a family history of diabetes, history of stroke, angina, or known heart disease. Additionally, being overweight is a significant risk factor for diabetes.
COLON CANCER SCREENING
It is recommended that everyone over the age of 50 begin every other year faecal occult blood testing. This test involves getting small samples of your bowel motion, collected at home via a specialized kit, and having the lab test it for blood. If the test is positive, this would indicate the need to proceed to further testing for colon cancer. It is important to note that most people who have a positive stool test do not end up with a diagnosis of bowel cancer. However, further testing for positive results (indicating blood) will be recommended.
Colonoscopy, the fiber optic camera review of the colon, is generally indicated for those with a positive faecal test, or in those at higher risk for colon cancer (significant family history).
Osteoporosis is often considered a women’s disease, and is more common in women, but many men are also at risk for the development of this bone thinning disease. Your doctor can help decide if further testing is warranted given your situation.