Learn how annual health screenings are the key to taking care of yourself year-round.
COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds these days. And some people may be putting off checkups and annual screenings because of it. But according to Eileen Evert, senior director of Health and Wellness at Geisinger, it’s better to keep those routine doctor visits on your calendar.
“Preventive care helps detect diseases in the early stages when they are easiest to treat,” she explains. “That’s why it’s so important to keep up-to-date with annual screenings even if you feel perfectly healthy — and it’s especially important if you have a family history of disease.”
What are the recommended annual screenings for healthy adults?
“It’s recommended that you get a complete physical exam every year,” says Ms. Evert. “It’s a chance for your healthcare provider to measure your height, weight and body mass index (BMI) and note any significant changes. And if it’s the right time of year, you can also get your flu shot, which is recommended every year for everyone 6 months and older.”
Cholesterol (lipid) screenings are recommended every 5 years unless you have diabetes or cardiovascular issues. In that case, you should be screened every year. “If you have diabetes, yearly HbA1c, LDL cholesterol and kidney tests are also recommended, along with a retinal or dilated eye exam,” says Ms. Evert.
Your healthcare provider will take your blood pressure at your annual exam to make sure it’s within the normal range (120/80). However, if you have a history of high blood pressure or diabetes, screenings should be done more often.
“If you’re 65 or older, bone density screenings are also important,” says Ms. Evert, “especially after a bone fracture or if you’re at high risk for osteoporosis.”
Eye exams for glaucoma and macular degeneration are recommended every 2 to 4 years until you reach 64 years old. After age 64, have your eyes examined every year or two to check for other age-related conditions.
“After age 50, colon cancer screens are a good idea for everyone,” says Ms. Evert. “Most doctors recommend a yearly fecal occult blood test with a full colonoscopy every 10 years and a flexible sigmoidoscopy on the 5-year point in between.”
Annual screenings for women
After age 40, women should get mammograms every 1 or 2 years. “If you have a family history of breast cancer or especially dense breast tissue, other tests — including genetic screenings — might be good options for you even before age 40,” explains Ms. Evert. “Ask your doctor about Geisinger’s high-risk breast clinic if you have special concerns.”
Pap tests and pelvic exams are recommended every 3 years or more. Ask your doctor what schedule is right for you, especially if you’re 65 or older or have had a hysterectomy.
Annual screenings for men
The right schedule for prostate exams, which may include a digital rectal exam and/or a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), varies by individual. Ask your doctor what they’d recommend for you.
Safety precautions are in place
“Geisinger has taken extreme precautions to protect everyone from COVID-19,” explains Ms. Evert. “This includes mandatory masking, extra-stringent cleaning, strict measures to maintain physical distance in waiting rooms and thorough health screenings for staff and caregivers. When you consider the fact that regular checkups catch medical issues early when they’re easier to treat, it’s obvious that it’s riskier to skip them than it is to have them done.”
Learn more about what we’re doing to keep you safe at geisinger.org/safe.
Your first mammogram: The basics
6 ways men can reduce the risk of prostate cancer
Need health insurance? Learn about Geisinger Health Plan offerings