April 26, 2016

Take Charge of Your Health with Preventive Screenings

Be Healthy

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but you should make it a point to see your primary care physician (PCP) at least once a year to help manage your overall health. 

“You may not need a complete head-to-toe physical, but you should touch base with your physician and make a plan to keep you healthy,” says Dr. Patricia Mayer, a family medicine physician with Kauai Medical Clinic. 

“These visits are a valuable tool to establish a relationship with a physician and to develop trust and an open line of communication should issues arise in the future,” Mayer explains. “Should medical problems occur or new symptoms develop, patients are more likely to see a physician whom they know rather than make the effort to establish care with new physician. This is also the time to review and update preventive care issues that are due for that individual patient.” 

While physical exams are not a one-size-fits-all test, most patients can expect the following during their yearly checkup: 

  • Blood pressure screening – Every three to five years beginning at age 18 through age 40. Annually after age 40
  • Pap smears – For women starting at age 21. Every three years for ages 21-29, and every five years for those ages 30-65 if an HPV test is done at the same time
  • Chlamydia screening – For sexually active women ages 15-25
  • Reproductive health counseling
  • Annual mammogram – For women starting at age 40
  • Colon cancer screening – For both men and women starting at age 50
  • Cholesterol and diabetes screenings – Periodically for both men and women, depending risk factors, starting by age 45 at the latest 

Your PCP also will review your immunization records during these visits. 

Flu shots are recommended annually, as there is good evidence that they prevent complications of influenza, which include secondary bacterial infections, hospitalizations and even death. Also, flu shots decrease sick time, and thus lost time from work or school,” Mayer says, noting that there is no standard panel of tests that is applicable to every patient. 

“It is all dependent on the age of the patient, his or her family history and current medical issues,” Mayer says. 

“A good site to check is the United States Preventive Services Task Force,” she advises. “Here, you can download an app, put in your age and health conditions, and find a list of what you might be due to have checked. It is best to go over this list with your primary care physician.” 

Another helpful website for patients seen at Hawaii Pacific Health’s network of hospitals is MyChart® by Hawaii Pacific Health. Here, patients can have online access to their health records, as well as their family members’ records, and receive reminders of when their next vaccinations are due. 

“The best prevention is to establish a relationship with a primary care physician who you trust,” Mayer says. “With all of the research being done in medicine these days, the recommendations for preventive screenings change frequently. Your physician is your best resource for determining the screenings that are right for you.”