Annual Exams & Routine Screenings: Why They're Important
Recently, because of my own life events with loved ones, it has become apparent how truly important annual exams and routine screenings are. These appointments are essential to early detection and helping to prevent serious illness.
I could say that people seem to still skip this "simple, easy" way to stay healthy, but the truth is, between COVID-19, fussing with insurance, and the time allotment often needed just waiting for your physician, it's only simple and easy, in theory. When, in reality, this process can be kind of pain, take up an hour or three out of your day, stressful, and test your patience. All that said and aside, an annual exam and routine screenings, in some instances, can be the key to surviving.
My example(s) from recent events this year:
After thinking symptoms were just a side-effect of aging, doctor appointments, specialists, screenings, and having 75% of his colon and an 11 cm tumor surgically removed, my boyfriend (age 31) was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He is the "poster boy" for a healthy, fit adult whose lifestyle characterizes and includes all the habits of someone who is least likely to have cancer. It was the last thing expected by any of the specialists treating him, including UCI's most accredited colorectal doctor. For this reason, they suspected he had an inherited gene mutation that made him more susceptible to certain cancers. Long story short, he did - Lynch Syndrome.
This news, required his parents to get tested for Lynch Syndrome, and also to get routine checks they had been putting off. As a result, his father has Lynch Syndrome and his mother does not. However, in her routine screening, she had (until now) pushed aside, his mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
Why are annual exams so important?
The benefits of early detection and prevention to save lives and reduce the impacts of disease have been shown over and over. Additionally, these exams are the perfect opportunity to get any health questions answered.
“It’s the opportunity for your provider to talk with you about your lifestyle, tobacco use, exercise, and alcohol use, all which make a difference on your future longevity.”
- Marie McCormack, Renown Medical Group
These visits are the perfect time to discuss issues with your provider that may not directly relate to a particular medical problem or immediate illness, but may also be clues to a bigger underlying condition.
Why would you need an annual exam if you aren’t feeling sick?
Seeing your physician when you are not feeling sick is an opportunity to, instead of talking about your ailments, to speak about your wellness. Not only can this discussion contribute to your wellness, but it can also lead to potential changes that you can make that will make huge dividends in the future for your wellness, and an opportunity for you to learn about what to expect in comping years as far as health and lifestyle changes accompanied by aging.
What can you expect at an annual exam?
Annual exams usually check your:
History – lifestyle behaviors, health concerns, vaccination status, family medical history
Vitals – blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature
General appearance – your care provider can find out a lot about you just by watching and talking to you
Routine screening - for early detection and preventative care
Your annual exam is also the opportunity for your provider to discuss each of your chronic health problems, and what changes or suggestions can be made to help make things better and/or easier for you in the future.
What can you do to better prepare for your annual exam?
1) Have a discussion with your extended family about their current health problems or health history. This is especially important when it comes to things like cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease.
2) You should also make a list of your medications, including supplements and over-the-counter medications, and exactly how you are taking them.
3) If you have records that may have to be requested from another provider such as your gastroenterologist, surgeon, or OB/GYN, you can start the process of getting those records sent to your primary care provider.