Screening 101: What Health Screening Tests Do You Need and Why?

Primary Care PhysicianHealth screening tests can seem like a nuisance: You need to schedule an appointment, take time out of your day and wait to see a provider. But, they are so much more. Health screenings are a way for you to take control of your own health. An annual exam with a primary care provider gives you the opportunity to talk about your concerns, your family history and past or current medical conditions.

These annual tests and exams can equip you with the information and education you need to make healthy choices that last a lifetime, allowing you to enjoy life to its fullest. There are many screenings available. Your primary care provider will discuss which are best for you based on your family and medical history. Those screening tests may include:

  • Annual physical
  • Annual eye exam
  • Cancer screenings
  • Sexually transmitted infection screenings

Annual Physical Examination

The best place to start with annual screenings is with your annual physical exam. This appointment gives you the opportunity to talk with your primary care provider – sharing any concerns and getting answers to any questions you may have. It also allows your provider to check in on any other conditions you may have – from high blood pressure, depression, anxiety or diabetes. During your annual exam, you may also receive:

  • Blood tests to check blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Immunizations, such as the flu shot
  • Pelvic exam (women)
  • Weight, blood pressure and temperature check
  • Screening questions about depression, smoking, and alcohol use

Your provider will also recommend any additional screenings based on your family and medical history. Sharing an updated history with your physician is important as family history often indicates an increased risk for developing certain conditions, such as cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Annual Eye Exam

If you have diabetes, you should schedule an annual eye exam. Make going to the eye doctor a priority. Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk for eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataract and glaucoma. Your eye doctor will conduct special tests to check the health of your eyes to keep you seeing well for as long as possible.

Cancer Screenings

Cancer screenings can vary across individuals, depending on their age, risk factors and family and medical history. Research has shown that some screening tests can reduce cancer deaths. According to the National Cancer Institute, those include:

• Colonoscopy – Screenings for colon cancer, including colonoscopy and other indirect colon cancer tests, can diagnose early stage colon cancer and precancerous cells, which can be removed to prevent cancer from developing.

• Low-dose CT scanIndividuals at risk for developing lung cancer should have a low-dose CT scan, which can detect and diagnose lung cancer. Early detection – before symptoms appear – can reduce lung cancer deaths.

• Mammogram – The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines for mammogram to detect early stage breast cancer in asymptomatic average-risk women:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual mammograms after discussion with their provider.
  • Women ages 45-54 should have an annual mammogram.
  • Women ages 55 and older should have mammograms every two years.

• Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing – Cervical cancer death rates have dropped dramatically since regular Pap test screening was introduced. Today, most health professionals recommend that Pap testing begin at age 21 and occur every 5 years if done with HPV testing.

Your provider may also discuss screenings for skin cancer and prostate cancer, depending on your age and risk factors.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Screening

If you’re sexually active, talk to your doctor about getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). An open and honest conversation can help you and your doctor identify your risk and get you the information and tests you need to stay healthy.

Some individuals with an STI, such as HPV or chlamydia, may show no symptoms but can still infect others. Left untreated, these infections can have serious complications on your physical, emotional and reproductive health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends STI screenings for the following individuals:

• Annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings for all sexually active women under age 25 and older women with risk factors

• Chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings for pregnant women at risk for infection

• HIV screenings at least once for everyone ages 13-64

  • HIV testing should be done more frequently for those at risk, including those who have more than one partner or use IV drugs.

• Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

• Syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B screenings for all pregnant women

Emory Healthcare is committed to providing confidential and accessible STI testing at sites across metropolitan Atlanta. We partner with organizations around the community to deliver family planning, sexual education and sexually transmitted infection screenings and resources.

Emory Healthcare

At Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need, when you need it. With more than 2,000 doctors and 300 locations, including six hospitals, primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. Find a doctor near you to schedule your annual screenings and exams.

 

About Dr. Vohra-Khullar

Pamela Vohra-Khullar, MD, joined Emory in 2013 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine. She is also distinguished as a Senior Physician in clinical medicine. She splits her time between primary care clinic at The Emory Clinic and resident education at Grady Memorial Hospital. She completed medical school at the University of Chicago in 2005 and residency at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2008. She serves as the site director for the Primary Care Resident Clinic at The Emory Clinic. Her educational interests include ambulatory teaching and patient-doctor communication. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine, women’s health, and comprehensive chronic disease management.

 

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