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    Get Screened for Good Preventive Health

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    The best way to stay on top of your health is to get the most important screening tests and checkups. Here are the top screening tests.

    Most of us want to take good care of our health. But in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we sometimes let checkups and screening appointments go by the wayside. This was particularly true during the pandemic. But as the masks have come off and we have reemerged, it’s time to get back to it with screening tests, too.

    “Screening tests are an important part of preventive care,” says Kate Burke, MD, Senior Medical Advisor at Patients Like Me. Routine screening tests also help physicians compare test results over time, so they can catch a potential problem as it’s developing and prevent it with lifestyle interventions or medication.

    “The problem we have as physicians, particularly in primary care, is that we run out of time, and we don’t get a chance to discuss screening tests in the detail we would like to,” Dr. Burke says.

    Because our time is limited and physicians’ time is limited, too, Dr. Burke recommends doing your homework before you see your doctor to ask about screening tests. “This means looking at your family history. If your mom and two sisters had breast cancer, for example, then breast cancer screening will be at the top of your list of most important screening tests,” she says. If you’re a man with a family history of prostate cancer, you’ll want to ask your doctor about the value of prostate cancer screening.

    Another way you can do that homework is by going to the United States Preventative Services Task Force website at US Preventative Task Force Recommendations to check out their latest recommendations for screening tests. “The USPSTF uses evidence-based medicine to give grades ABCD and I to screening tests,” Dr. Burke explains. A means strongly recommended, B means recommended, C means recommended for select individuals, D means not recommended, and I indicates there is insufficient evidence to make a call.

    Dr. Burke also recommends using the USPSTF tool (Prevention TaskForce Search (, which allows you to type in metrics about yourself—your age, gender/sex, weight, and whether you are pregnant or a smoker—to reveal the most important screening tests for you.

    With all this in mind, here’s a general overview of the most important screening tests:

    1. Physical exam/checkup: There’s no substitute for an in-person exam with your doctor, so he or she can listen to your heart and lungs, look in your ears, nose, and throat, feel your abdomen, and get an overall sense of your health.
    2. Body mass index (BMI): Your BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Your BMI tells you whether you are at a healthy weight, underweight, overweight, or obese. Routine Screenings | Johns Hopkins Medicine Your doctor can measure your BMI, or you can calculate it online.
    3. Blood pressure screening: The USPSTF recommends screening for high blood pressure (hypertension) in all adults 18 and older with an office blood pressure measurement. The task force also recommends confirming a high blood pressure reading outside of a clinical setting to rule out “white coat hypertension,” or high blood pressure that occurs as a result of doctors’ office anxiety.
    4. Cholesterol check: The American Heart Association recommends all adults 20 and older have their blood cholesterol checked every four to six years if they are low risk. If you are higher risk, your health care provider may recommend more frequent testing.
    5. Eye exam: The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all adults get a baseline comprehensive eye exam starting at age 40.
    6. Cervical cancer screening: The USPSTF recommends screening for cervical cancer every three years with cervical cytology (pap smear) alone in women aged 21 to 29 years. For women aged 30 to 65 years, the USPSTF recommends screening every three years with pap smear alone, every 5 years with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone, or every 5 years with hrHPV testing in combination with cytology (cotesting).
    7. Colonoscopy: The USPSTF recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 45 to 49 years (recommended) and adults aged 50 to 74 (strongly recommended).
    8. Mammogram: The USPSTF recommends screening for breast cancer with mammogram every two years from ages 50 to 74. The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram every year between ages 45 and 54 and every other year at age 55 and older. Talk to your provider about which frequency is best for you.
    9. STD screening: Screening for sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea is recommended for all sexually active people 24 years and younger and all people 25 years and older who are at increased risk for infection. All adolescents and adults ages 15 to 65 should be screened for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

    “When it comes to screening tests, you are the one living in your body, so you know the most about your health,” Dr. Burke says. “So don’t be afraid to suggest a screening or ask your doctor, is this really something I need?” The best person to advocate for your health is YOU.

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