A nutritious diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise, no tobacco, and no excessive alcohol use comprise the mainstay of illness prevention. Even with an active and healthy lifestyle, what one inherits from their parents may predispose them to certain conditions.
Doctors can detect many medical conditions in the early, treatable stages by doing screening tests. Some of these tests are done as part of the annual check-up, and some are more involved and require an appointment with a specialist.
A patient may need to have screening tests earlier or more frequently than noted below if a condition is common or has occurred at unusually young ages in their family. Genetic tests may be indicated for familial cancer syndromes.
We often screen for medical conditions using the processes below:
- Hypertension – Blood pressure measured at every visit
- High cholesterol – Blood test
- Diabetes – Blood test
- Osteoporosis – Bone density scan, usually after age 65
- Breast cancer – Breast exam at annual check-up and mammogram every 1-2 years after age 40-50
- Cervical cancer – Pap smear every 1-3 years by a gynecologist
- Colon cancer – Colonoscopy after age 50
- Prostate cancer – Consider PSA blood test and prostate exam after age 50
- Skin cancer – Skin exam at an annual check-up
Several conditions are not common enough to screen for in everyone but should be considered for people or families at high risk, including:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm – Ultrasound in men aged 65-75 who have smoked, and in anyone with a family history of surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Lung cancer – CT scan of the lungs if you are 50-80 years old, have smoked heavily, and have smoked within the past 15 years.
Genetic testing for certain conditions like familial cancer syndromes is another type of screening that is indicated for some people.