If you are a healthy person, you should still get “periodic health exams” in order to prevent some diseases and assess your risk to develop complications. So how often should you go see your doctor? And what exams should you have done?
I believe in patients understanding every step of the medical care that is provided to them. And this means that you should all be aware of when and why to see your doctor. So, even if you are a healthy person, you should see your doctor for the following reasons:
- Occult blood test (50-75 years old, every 1-2 years): detects invisible blood in your stools which can be a sign of early colon cancer or other digestive problems.
- Colonoscopy (anyone above 40 or 50 years old, depending on your country and risk factors, every 5-10 years): detects pre-cancerous polyps in your large intestine so it prevents colon cancer, one of the biggest cancer killers!
- Check your lipid levels (>40 for men, >50 for women): fats in our bloodstream clog our vessels and cause heart attacks, coronary artery disease, clots in out legs and lungs,… everyone should have their lipid profile checked at this age to avoid health complications.
- Prostate cancer screening: Over 50% of men >65 years old have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). What this means is that your prostate is enlarged and compresses your urinary ducts, preventing you from peeing properly. So you end up feeling like you need to pee a lot, often and when you do pee, you have drops coming out instead of an actual nice stream like you’re supposed to. Prostate cancer screening involves a digital rectal exam (DRE) starting around 40 to 50 years of age, which means that the doctor puts a finger in your rectum to feel the size and shape of your prostate: it’s uncomfortable, it’s strange, but it has to be done!
- Mammogram for women aged 50-75 years old to detect early breast cancer.
- Pap test for women 21-70 years old to detect cervical cancer. It’s done every 3 years if the results are normal.
On top of the aforementioned tests, you should see your doctor every 1-3 years so that they can assess how you’re doing in general (children should see their doctor even more often). If you are over 18 years old, a regular general exam (1-3 years) at your doctor’s office will benefit you in several ways:
- you understand what diseases you’re at risk for and what you can do.
- you can discuss any current problems (e.g. less sexual desire, feeling down,…)
- the doctor partners up with you to find a way to help you with your concerns e.g. quitting smoking
- you can perform relevant tests for your age and risk, e.g. STD testing if you recently had non-protected sex, Pap test if you’re a woman 25-70 years old,…
- a family doctor can advise you on the many contraceptive methods available and can help you plan having children, physically and psychologically, including all the precautions that you should take BEFORE having children, and help you maximize your chances of having children.
- Any health questions that you have, your physician will answer and help you through.
- assess your general well being, in case something is a bit off the chart, like your blood pressure or your sugar, it is important to treat it as soon as possible to prevent later complications.
- Whether you should have a gynecologist or not depends on many factors: if you are pregnant, you need one (obviously!). If your family doctor recommends one or is not certain about some gynecological exams then you should get one. Not all family doctors are comfortable prescribing and doing gynecological tests/procedures, so if that is the case then get a gynecologist. You family doctor will likely recommend one in this case.
The primary role of a general practitioner is to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle and to prevent the many diseases that you are at risk for (because we are all at risk for something!). It is important that you see regularly your doctor for all the reasons above.
Seeing your doctor regularly is the one and only best way to remain healthy and informed about your health. Physical
Live healthy ❤