Detect cancer early with regular checkups and screenings

January 27, 2016 | by George Aghia, M.D.

When you were a child, your parents probably took you to the doctor for your yearly checkup. You may remember looking forward to a lollipop or sticker at the end of the appointment.

Now that you are an adult juggling a 40-hour plus work week and possibly kids, those routine doctor and dental appointments aren’t quite the same — and may have fallen by the wayside.

“I feel fine … why go?” You may say. But regular checkups and screenings do what they are supposed to do — help prevent health problems down the line.

Regular physicals and screenings can find diseases like cancer early before it has a chance to spread. This is especially important because some diseases may not cause obvious signs or symptoms, particularly in the early stages. 

During a basic and general physical, your doctor gathers information about your health by looking at you and talking with you. Your doctor will likely ask about your family medical history and lifestyle to identify risk factors that may lead to certain diseases. During the physical examination, your doctor will look for any abnormalities that may indicate a health issue. Your doctor may also order a complete blood count and/or urinalysis to detect any underlying health conditions.

Your annual physical is a good time to ask your doctor about any screenings you should get. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) names a variety of screening tests that have been shown to reduce cancer deaths, such as a colonoscopy to prevent and detect colorectal cancer, low-dose helical CT scan to search for lung cancer among heavy smokers, and those fun Pap tests to look for warning signs of cervical cancer in women.

There’s also screening for skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation says the risk of dying from melanoma is directly related to the depth of the cancer, which is related to the amount of time it has been growing unnoticed. The signs of melanoma, if visible, are often ignored due to busy lifestyles and a lack of doctor visits. Yet, these signs can often be revealed during your yearly checkup or through a screening with a dermatologist.

Don’t forget about regular dental checkups. During your routine cleaning, your dentist may also look inside your mouth for signs of oral cancer or precancerous conditions.

Preventative care is so important for a healthy life. Regular physicals and screenings can help detect a health condition before signs and symptoms develop. But don’t rely on these visits alone. Keep your bad habits in check and commit to living healthy by exercising daily, following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of H2O.

So what are you waiting for? Schedule your yearly checkup today – it might just save your life.

How has a physical or screening helped you? We’d love to hear about it in the below comments!

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