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Stay Current on Health Screenings

“I haven’t seen a doctor for almost two years,” is a common sentiment that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have put “non-essential” appointments on hold during the pandemic, causing delays in necessary preventive screenings.

However, we must be mindful about disease prevention, beyond COVID-19, and start tackling healthcare maintenance items (like annual checkups and mammograms) that have been put off for the past couple of years. To stay on top of your health, follow these guidelines for health screenings below based on your age and sex. Remember, it is easier to prevent disease than to treat it.

Updated recommendations from the American Cancer Society (ACS):

Colon Cancer Screening (Everyone)

  • Ages 45–75: Screening with colonoscopy (good for up to 10 years) or stool test (depending on test, good for 1–3 years)
  • Ages 75 and older: May continue screening if in good health. Discontinue at 85.

Breast Cancer Screening (Women)

  • Every year, beginning at age 40.
  • If you have a family history of breast cancer, please consult with your provider as additional screening may be recommended.

Cervical Cancer Screening (Women)

  • Ages 25–65, regardless of HPV vaccine status: Pap with HPV co-test every 5 years (if both tests are normal) in women meeting criteria for low risk. If only pap testing is available, test every three years.
  • In some instances, HPV screening beyond age 65 is indicated; consult with your provider.

Lung Cancer Screening (Everyone)

  • Ages 50–80: Low dose chest CT annually for current smokers or quit in the past 15 years, with at least a 20 pack-year (number of packs per day x number of years smoked) smoking history.
  • This is under review for updated guidelines by the ACS.

Prostate Cancer Screening (Men)

  • Begin Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test at 50 if you have average risk.
  • Begin at 45 if you have a higher than average risk.
  • Begin at 40 if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer before age 65.
  • Talk to your provider about the pros and cons of testing.

Recommendations from the American Heart Associations (AHA):

Blood Pressure Screening (Everyone)

  • Start screening for ages 20 and older.
  • Monitor once a year if blood pressure under 120/80 mm Hg, more often if above goal.

Cholesterol Profile (Everyone)

  • Start screening for ages 20 and older.
  • Monitor once every 4–6 years if low risk, more often if higher risk.
  • Ages 40 and older, assess 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Other Heart Screening (Everyone)

  • Check waist circumference or body mass index to evaluate heart risk at every regular healthcare visit.
  • If overweight with one additional heart risk, then check blood glucose or glycated hemoglobin A1c to assess for prediabetes/diabetes at least every 3 years (American Diabetes Association recommends everyone ages ≥ 45 to start screening).

How to Reduce Overall Health Risks

In addition to the above recommendations, here are some general tips for daily living that can help you prevent illness and disease and keep you in good health.

  • Get regular exercise and eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain ideal weight.
  • Stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends 3 L of fluids daily for men, 2.2 L for women, if no history of heart failure or kidney failure.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.
  • Avoid all forms of tobacco.
  • Protect your skin from UV exposure.
  • Get regular health screening tests, including evaluation of mental health.

If you’ve missed important screenings due to the pandemic, it’s time to schedule those appointments. If you need a primary care provider, visit overlakehospital.org/primarycare, or if you are an established patient, make your appointment today.

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