A lot of us only go to the doctor when we feel ill. For example, you have the flu or hurt yourself in an accident and need emergency care. Or maybe you have to take a physical for work or for life insurance purposes. While that seems like the obvious route to take, you have certain appointments that should be made every six months, or a year or every few years. This is in order to establish a history, determine risk factors and take preventative action. It is important whether you are experiencing symptoms or not.
There are five types of medical appointments that everyone needs to book:
Primary Care Provider – Yearly
It is important that you go for a yearly physical. The doctor will perform a physical exam and assess you for risk factors. They may then refer you to a specialist for further testing if something is found to be abnormal or you display risk factors.
Some examples of what they will look at:
Blood pressure – Measure of how high or how low the force of blood against your arteries is.
Cholesterol – Measure of the amount of cholesterol (good and bad) present in your blood.
Blood glucose level – Measure of the amount of glucose present in your blood. A blood glucose test is typically performed during fasting to get an accurate reading.
Body mass index – Measure of your weight compared to your height.
Optometrist – Yearly to every 2 years
Eye and vision examinations are extremely important in preventative care, and you should have an exam at least every two years. This is whether you have glasses/contact lenses or not. Certain progressive eye diseases can be picked up early and treated to prevent too much damage (e.g. macular degeneration). Those with diabetes also have to be especially vigilant.
They will ask about any eye or vision problems, review your medication and/or medical conditions and perform an eye exam.
Dentist – Every 6 months to 1 year
This may be very difficult for some people. For example, an estimated 75% of people in the US show some level of fear about the dentist, and up to 10% have a full-blown phobia of dentists. However, it is important to go regularly to prevent problems from developing and sorting out small issues before they become big ones.
Gynaecologist – Yearly
A woman should start seeing a gynaecologist when they become sexually active or at the latest at 21 years of age. They will perform a pap smear, pelvic exam and breast exam during your visit. These check for signs of infection, growths, abnormalities and cancer screening. If you plan on having children, it is also extremely important to have regular check-ups to screen for and treat possible problems (e.g. endometriosis).
Dermatologist – Yearly
Visiting your dermatologist is a great way of being proactive with screening for a variety of skin conditions.
They will review medical history and family history and perform a skin cancer screening to assess for any suspicious lesions, moles, or spots on your skin.
The above is a good guide for those in their 20s and 30s. However, as you get older, you may need to include other screenings.
Schedule these from your 40s onwards:
Women: Mammogram. This screening can detect cancer in its early stages when it’s most treatable. If you have very dense breasts, you should ask about a 3D mammogram.
Men: Have an annual rectal exam/PSA blood test performed by your primary care doctor to screen for prostate cancer.
Add these in your 50s (or earlier if you have risk factors):
Colonoscopy: This can detect early signs of colorectal cancer. During the procedure, polyps and tumours may be removed.
Lung screening: This is recommended every year for smokers and former smokers (who quit in the last fifteen years). You may also be at higher risk of lung disease due to occupation—for example, those that worked in the mining industry and came into contact with harmful substances.