Preventive care is essential to your long-term health and wellness. When you’re proactive about prevention — by staying on top of your annual exams and doctor-recommended screenings — you’re able to catch potential issues sooner and better safeguard your health.
If you need more proof that the right screenings can save lives, here are three examples:
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
Colonoscopies can not only identify cancer, they can prevent it from occurring. These screenings find precancerous growths called polyps in the colon or rectum so your doctor can remove them before they turn into cancer. Screenings also find this type of cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat.
The CDC credits screening with preventing roughly 33,000 colorectal cancer cases and saving about 16,000 lives in one five-year period. Yet a third of adults ages 50 to 75 aren’t keeping up with their recommended colorectal screenings.
Though you may have some fear and hesitation about getting a colonoscopy, the preparation and procedure have been simplified and streamlined in recent years to improve your experience. This relatively quick outpatient procedure is considered the “gold standard” in preventing colorectal cancers.
Blood Pressure Screenings
Earlier and better treatment of high blood pressure — which can only be found by an exam — plays a role in the decreasing death rates from heart attacks, blood vessel diseases, strokes and kidney disease, according to the American Heart Association. In the past four decades, the mortality rate from heart and circulatory diseases has fallen about 65 percent.
Yet about one in five Americans who has high blood pressure doesn’t even know it. That’s especially troublesome because high blood pressure, sometimes called “the silent killer,” has no symptoms.
Getting your blood pressure checked is the only way to know if you should be making lifestyle changes or taking medication to get it under control.
Since being introduced in 1941, the Pap test has reduced cervical cancer-related deaths by about 74 percent. The latest recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), American Cancer Society (ACS), and other groups fine-tunes earlier advice, generally advising women to get this test about every three years starting at age 21. Talk to your doctor about how frequently you should be getting screened.
Key Recommended Health Screenings
Here are some of the health screenings most highly recommended by the USPSTF:
- Blood pressure screening: screening for high blood pressure for adults 18 and older.
- Breast cancer screening: screening every other year using mammography for women ages 50 to 74.
- Cervical cancer screening: Pap tests every three years for women ages 21 to 65 who have had vaginal intercourse and have a cervix.
- Cholesterol blood test: Screening to determine cholesterol abnormalities is strongly recommended for men 35 and older and women 45 and older if they’re at increased risk for coronary heart disease. Screening is also recommended for men 20 to 35 and women 20 to 45 if they’re at increased risk for coronary artery disease.
- Colorectal cancer screening: screening using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy beginning at age 50 until age 75 (the ACS recommends starting screening at age 45). As the USPSTF notes, the risks and benefits of these three methods vary.
- Type 2 diabetes screening: recommended for adults without any diabetes symptoms who have sustained blood pressure (either treated or untreated) higher than 135/80.
In terms of preventive health, of course, regular screening tests are just part of the puzzle. You should also develop a relationship with a health care provider. Your doctor can keep an eye on your well-being, talk with you about a healthier lifestyle, keep your immunizations up-to-date and help you control illnesses if they do develop.
If you don’t already have a primary care provider, you can use our convenient online physician finder to find one near you.