One of the most important things to do each year is to get a health screening done. Not only is it the key to maintaining a good healthy lifestyle but it also helps you detect any illness you may have early. But what do you know about health screenings? We give you the simple facts you need to know before make that appointment.
What does a health screening consist of?
It consists of a full medical history, including family history and lifestyle habits, along with a physical examination and some other tests. It also incorporates counselling; focused examinations based on age, sex, and risk factors; and some wellness elements in patient care, apart from a disease-oriented approach.
A health screen can be divided into three areas:
1. Screening of conditions with no symptoms such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and colon cancer.
2. Screening of conditions with symptoms that are under-reported by patients, such as depression and erectile dysfunction.
3. Assessment of health risk behaviours such as smoking and nutritional status.
What should you go for?
Health screenings can differ from individual to individual as there are various factors at play, such as age, sex, and risk factors.
For the average adult: screenings for obesity, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol are usually recommended. You are also recommended to check for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
For females: a screening for cervical cancer should be done three years after you become sexually active – and every three years after. For breast cancer, screening is recommended every two years after the age of 40 – but those at a higher risk should get checked more frequently.
For those with an average risk of colon cancer: an annual screening after the age of 50.
Does your child need an annual health screening?
No. The recommendation is also based on age, sex, and risk factors. Generally, a growth and development assessment is suggested instead.
Other screenings (not done annually) may include:
1. Eye examination: to detect refractive errors and a lazy eye that could interfere with your child’s studies.
2. Hearing screening: to identify both mild and moderate hearing problems.
3. Skeletal examination: to detect any skeletal defects that may not have been identified during infancy.
4. Testicular examination: to root out problems such as hydrocele (swelling in the scrotum) and undescended testes (when the testes have not descended into the scrotum).
5. Colour blindness screening: to detect colour blindness, as it could affect career choices.
The expert: Dr Anza Elias, occupational health physician at Sunway Medical Centre
This article was first published in the January 2018 issue of Her World Malaysia.