Are You Putting Your Health on Hold?
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Missed Screenings During the Pandemic May Result in Serious Health Problems
The alarming fact is millions of people are postponing annual checkups and routine health screenings because they think they can just somehow wait out the pandemic. Not true, say health care experts. The pandemic is not a valid reason to delay care. Doctors’ offices have taken many steps to keep patients safe. Continuing to put off routine office visits is risky and could lead to more advanced, harder-to-treat chronic illnesses down the road.
“Oftentimes people put off screenings because they don’t have symptoms,” says Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, Chief Medical Officer and Preventive Medicine Physician at Cooper Clinic. “But that’s the whole point of screenings—to detect problems before they become serious or symptomatic.”
Some of the most common screenings include those that look for signs of:
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Osteoporosis or weak bones
- Vision/hearing loss
- Cognitive decline
Staying up to date on vaccines is another important reason to get your annual checkup. This should include a flu shot every year and a tetanus shot every 10 years. If you have not yet gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, protect yourself—and those around you—by doing so now.
“It’s time to get back on track,” says Dr. Kettles. “If you haven’t seen your health care provider within the last year, schedule an appointment right away. And be sure to keep your patient portal updated. It’s an empowering tool that gives you on-demand access to your health information and keeps lines of communication open with your care team.”
Health Screenings: What you should get and when
Below are general recommendations for healthy, low-risk patients. Additional details follow the table. If you are at risk for a particular disease, your health care provider may suggest you be tested earlier and more frequently. As always, consult with your health care provider if you have questions.
AGE 18-39 YEARS
- Breast exam (beginning at age 20)
- Pap smear/HPV test/Chlamydia test/Pelvic exam: Every one to five years, depending on risk factors (beginning at age 21)
- Testicular self-exam: Monthly
- Hypertension (blood pressure) screening: Annually or every two years
- Lab testing for cholesterol and blood sugar (diabetes)
- Skin checks for concerning moles or lesions
- Vaccine review/update
- Dental exam every 6 months
AGE 40-64 YEARS
The same recommended screenings above should continue with these additions:
- Mammogram: Discuss timeline for this screening with your doctor
- Bone density testing: If risk factors present
- Prostate cancer screenings and PSA testing: Discuss timeline for screening with your doctor
- Colonoscopy: Baseline at age 45; follow-up based on baseline results
- Coronary artery calcification (CAC) score: Baseline between age 40-50
- Skin cancer screening
- Lung cancer screening: If you are a past or current smoker
- Vision screening for glaucoma/macular degeneration
- Routine vaccinations:
- Shingles vaccine (SHINGRIX): At age 50
- Pneumonia vaccine (Prevnar 13®): Given once, if indicated, between age 50-64
- Flu vaccine: Annually
- Tetanus (Tdap): Every 10 years
AGE 65 AND OLDER
The same recommended screenings above should continue with these additions/changes:
- Osteoporosis screening: Starting at age 65, if not done previously
- Pap smear no longer needed in low-risk women
- Osteoporosis screening: At age 65 based on risk factors
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
- Pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax-PPSV23): At age 65
- Cognitive health screening
- Hearing test: If indicated
Again, if you haven’t seen your health care provider in the past year, it’s time to make that appointment.
To learn more about Cooper Clinic preventive exams and how an annual exam can help you manage and improve your health, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 866.906.2667.