Annual checkups: Why they are vital for everyone

More than likely your parents or school ensured you had an annual checkup with your doctor as a kid, either to be up-to-date on shots, for a sports physical and/or check overall health. But as many people grow up, the annual doctor visits tend fall by the wayside. In fact in 2011, it was estimated 39 percent of Michigan men and 29 percent of Michigan women didn’t receive a routine medical checkup within the past year, far above the national average.

Just because you feel good doesn’t mean an annual visit to the doctor is unnecessary. Check-ins can help prevent the development of major health issues, including cancer. With an estimated 55,000 Michigan residents diagnosed with cancer in a year, it’s time to take preventative measures like this to stay healthy for both you and your family.

So, what should you expect at your next annual visit? You may experience the following preventative screenings and tests while visiting your doctor:

  • Discussion of diet and exercise habits, including any smoking, drug and alcohol use
  • Blood, urine, vision and hearing screenings to test for abnormalities
  • Measuring your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight
  • Conversation regarding depression, stress and mental health
  • Testing for STDs and possibly HIV, depending on your age and sexual lifestyle
  • Screening test for colorectal cancer, starting around 50 years old, or younger if you have a family history of the disease

What men can expect

In addition to the above basic checks, a man’s annual visit with a doctor may include:

  • Prostate health:  Around 50 years old, or younger if you have a family history, a rectal exam to check for bumps in the prostate and a prostate specific blood test will be administered to screen for prostate cancer, which is highly treatable when caught early. Studies suggest screening DREs may prevent 50-70 percent of prostate cancer-related deaths.
  • Blood vessels: If you smoke cigarettes and are between the ages of 65 and 75, your doctor will check for an enlargement in your aorta (the large blood vessel in your chest and stomach) with an abdominal exam, which can lead to a life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, or weakness in the lining of the aorta, if untreated.

What women can expect

At your annual visit, the doctor will potentially check for the following:

  • Cervical cancer: Every one to three years, a pap smear should be completed to ensure no abnormal cells have developed, causing this deadly disease.
  • Breast health: In addition to a clinical test for unusual lumps in your breasts, a breast cancer screening with a mammogram will be conducted every one to two years, starting around 40 years old, or younger if you have a strong family history of breast cancer. A 2011 Cochrane review found mammography in women after the age of 40 could reduce their breast cancer risk by 15 percent.
  • Bone health: To prevent osteoporosis, the disease causing brittle, fragile bones, a bone density test will start around age 65, or younger if you have more than one risk factor for the disease.

By scheduling an annual doctor’s appointment, you are taking preventative measures to stay healthy and decrease your chances of developing diseases or cancer. You bring your car in for a check-up, why wouldn’t you do the same for your body?

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