How an Annual Health Screening Can Save Your Life
Nobody likes to go to the doctor, especially when they are not sick. But preventative healthcare is a massive piece of the long, healthy, happy life puzzle. Annual wellness exams often include a general screening, vitals check, labs and maintenance for chronic health conditions. In fact, it is not uncommon that these annual health screenings identify early-stage diseases like cancer, concerning blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thyroid dysfunction and a host of other common deficiencies and abnormalities. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandated 100 percent coverage for preventative care, giving you no excuse for missing your annual health screening.
Here are a few things to know when getting your annual health screening scheduled:
- Plan to schedule your annual wellness exam with your regular primary care doctor at approximately the same time each year. While recommendations vary, it is generally advisable that healthy adults in their 20s and 30s plan a well visit every two years and annually after age 40. If you do not have a primary care provider, research options based on your insurance coverage, determine whether the physician is accepting new patients and find a provider that feels like a good fit for your needs and concerns. Building rapport with one provider is essential. They will become increasingly familiar with your personal and family history as you age, creating a comprehensive picture of your baseline and noting significant changes as they develop.
- Upon check-in, you can expect paperwork to include questions about your insurance coverage, current health concerns, medications, personal and family history, substance use and past surgeries. For women, there will be additional questions about pregnancy, birth control and current cycle status.
- Once there, your doctor or nurse will gather vitals such as blood pressure, temperature and heart rate, as well as current weight and height. They will then document current medications and supplements, discuss mental health-related concerns, review the status of any chronic conditions, address any questions you may have and ask about new symptoms or issues. However, wellness exams are meant to address baseline health and, as such, visits typically will not involve any in-depth evaluation of new concerns or health problems; those issues will require a separate office visit.
- Following the verbal interview, the doctor will:
- Check breathing and heartbeat with a stethoscope
- Examine tonsils, lymph nodes and the thyroid
- Check the abdomen and liver for tenderness and size
- Assess muscle strength and reflexes
- Order any necessary lab tests or panels (often a standard blood chemistry and metabolic panel at the very least)
- Complete or schedule recommended cancer screenings (mammogram, colonoscopy, dermatology, etc.) and immunizations
- For women, the annual physical might also include a breast and pelvic exam
- For men, the appointment might consist of a testicular and prostate check
Keep in mind you may find it helpful to complete any screenings and lab work prior to the physical so that you can review the results with your doctor then. This also streamlines addressing any related medication changes or more sensitive findings and allows time for questions that may arise.
This month we want your help spreading the word about cancer prevention and the benefit of an annual health screening. According to the timetoscreen.org campaign, early detection may save your life because it can identify cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages. In addition, oncologists recommend routine cancer screenings for many individuals. So take charge of your health and schedule a screening today. You can find resources about when to get screened for specific cancers at https://timetoscreen.org/why-get-screened/.
For more information about total well-being for you or your employees, contact our Shepherd Insurance Employee Benefits team.