Once you’ve reached middle age, it’s time to start taking your health and wellness seriously. As you get older, your risk factors for cancer and heart disease increase dramatically. Even people who are in great shape can be susceptible to serious health issues as they grow older, so it’s important to start seeing your doctor for annual screenings. Annual screenings are important not just for the peace of mind for yourself or your loved ones, but they may also save your life. With advancements in modern medicine, many cancers and diseases can be eliminated if they are detected early on. Also, most health insurance policies cover annual examinations and screenings, so there’s nothing holding you back from scheduling these preventative screenings.
Schedule a Physical
If you haven’t had a physical since you signed up for your high school sports team, now is the time to see your doctor for a check-up. Most cancers and some diseases can travel through your body without producing a single symptom, so it’s vital that a doctor perform the necessary screenings to make sure you are as healthy as you feel. Men and women will go through the same routine examinations of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and hormone levels, as well as thyroid and weight evaluations.
Women are more likely to have heart-related stress tests to make sure they have not developed any unforeseen heart disease. For men, a physical will include checking the vital signs, monitoring heart health, and a prostate exam. During a prostate exam, the doctor will be examining the lobes and groove of the prostate gland to make sure it’s a healthy size. While it may be uncomfortable to go through a prostate exam, it could be the one screening that saves your life.
See a Dermatologist
After years of being in the great outdoors, your skin becomes more susceptible to melanoma. Though melanoma is curable, early detection can be the difference between life and death. Everyone over forty should schedule an annual screening with their dermatologist to check for skin cancer. If your dermatologist notices an area that causes alarm, a biopsy will be done on the suspicious tissue. A pathologist will then examine the tissue and determine whether the sample is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancerous). Like most cancers, early detection is key for skin cancer, so make sure you stay up to date with your dermatology screenings.
Mammograms and Gynecological Exams for Women
Breast cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent in women over the age of forty, so every woman should have an annual mammogram. A mammogram is a painless, x-ray picture of the breast that can detect malignant tumors that may otherwise go unnoticed. Women who have a family history of breast cancer should consult their doctors and consider beginning their annual screenings at a much younger age.
Women over forty should also continue seeing their gynecologist. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer for women and usually cannot be detected outside of a gynecological exam. If you have not been to the gynecologist for years, expect your doctor to spend some time discussing your health and performing both external and internal examinations.
Get Checked for Colon Cancer
Behind breast and lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and cause of cancer mortality. A colonoscopy is the most thorough screening to find polyps and cancers and may result in their immediate removal and biopsy. A colonoscopy usually does not need to be performed until you are fifty, but if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your doctor may advise you to be screened earlier.
Though the procedure is thorough, a colonoscopy can cause complications such as abdominal pain or infection. There are less thorough screenings that can be conducted to detect colorectal cancer such as the CT colonography. Consult your doctor about which screening may be best for your health, and make sure your doctor is up to date with all of your preventative screenings.