Self-care doesn’t always mean rest and relaxation. Sometimes self-care means being proactive about your health, even if it isn’t always pleasant. Nurses are great about advising and educating patients about ways to take charge of their needs, but when it comes to our own, we tend to drop the ball.
Here’s a list of checkups and tests you know you shouldn’t avoid, but do anyway. Consider this a friendly reminder. Get that calendar out and make some appointments.
Colorectal cancer is commonly diagnosed after symptoms appear, which typically doesn’t occur until the disease is more advanced. Screening is the only way to catch early changes, such as polyps and cell dysplasia. Beginning at age 50, it is recommended that women and men undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years along with yearly fecal tests to rule out bleeding and other findings that could indicate abnormal changes in the colon. Some people with personal or family histories that put them at higher risk of colon cancer may need a more aggressive screening schedule.
For women 40 and older, mammograms should be a yearly occurrence. Try to schedule yours on the same day every year to avoid the months slipping by and missing your mammogram anniversary. And don’t forget the breast self-exam; try to practice once a month.
3. Prostate exam
According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in males (second to non-melanoma skin cancer). A digital rectal exam is considered the preferred screening method. The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends against PSA screening due to the high incidence of false positive and the subsequent overtreatment.
4. Yearly Physical
You don’t have any acute issues and no need to make a doctor appointment. This is the best time to schedule a physical! Chances are, your PCP is booked several months out for physical exams, so booking ahead of time is the best way to go. A physical is a great chance for your PCP to assess your baseline status, answer any non-urgent medical questions you may have, and establish a more consistent relationship for when you DO have a medical problem that needs attention. Call your PCP today to schedule an appointment.
5. Dental Checkup
Periodontal disease is associated with other health issues, such cardiovascular disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. The American Dental Association states that regular professional cleanings is the only way to remove harmful tartar that traps bacteria along the gum line. Read here for warning signs of periodontal disease and tips for prevention.
6. Eye exam
Eye exams are perhaps the most overlooked of regular check-ups. One of those I’ll-get-around-to-it-someday kind of things. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you should be evaluated about every five to 10 years. Adults in their 40s should have an eye exam every two to four years. Those 65 and over should have a checkup every one to two years. If there’s a family history of eye disease, you wear glasses, or you have a chronic condition (such as diabetes), follow the recommendations of your eye care provider. One of the conditions you will be evaluated for is glaucoma, or increased intra-ocular pressure that can ultimately result in blindness, especially if untreated. Think that old adage about eating carrots for eye health is an old wive’s tale? Clinical trials have shown that supplemental Vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin E, zinc and copper are associated with as much as a 25% decreased risk of macular degeneration.