Preventive health screenings

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You run two miles every other day and lift weights twice a week. You've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. You don't smoke. When it comes to your health, you figure you've got everything covered. But when was the last time you saw your health care provider for a health screening?

Preventative screenings are an investment in your future. Here is a guide to screenings you should consider for continued good health.

 

Blood Pressure.

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is easily detected, and it can be controlled. But it is up to you to take action. The easiest way to detect high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure is made up of two measurements. The first is the force of your blood pushing against artery walls when your heart beats and pumps blood. This is called systolic pressure. The second is the pressure between heartbeats, which is lower. This is called diastolic pressure. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80. If your blood pressure is higher than 120/80, it means your heart is working harder than it should. A systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139, or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89, is called prehypertension. High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher. 

 

Diabetes.

Adults with treated or untreated blood pressure greater than 135/80 should be screened for diabetes. Three tests have been used to screen for diabetes: Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG), 2-Hour Postload Plasma, and Hemoglobin. The American Diabetes Association recommends screening with FPG every three years. The most life-threatening consequences of diabetes are heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and amputations. 

Baptist Health's Diabetes Self Management Program provides comprehensive diabetes education for patients and their family members. The staff provides individual and group educational sessions for diabetic patients and their families to help them learn how to control the disorder and how to prevent medical complications associated with diabetes.

 

Cancers of the Skin.

Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells. The three main types of skin cancer include: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. 

To help find melanoma early, it is important to examine your skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with moles, and other skin conditions, in order to better identify changes. Certain moles are at higher risk for changing into malignant melanoma. Moles that are present at birth (congenital nevi), and atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), have a greater chance of becoming malignant. Recognizing changes in moles is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma at its earliest stage. The warning signs can be detected by these ABCD rules:

  • Asymmetry - When half of the mole does not match the other half

  • Border - When the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular

  • Color - When the color of the mole is not the same all over; you may see shades of brown or black, sometimes with areas of pink, red, white, or blue

  • Diameter - If the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser

 

Colorectal Cancer.

Regular screening tests for colorectal cancer should start at age 50 for both men and women at average risk. There are different kinds of tests that can be done and each has its own recommended schedule, from annually to every 10 years. Speak with your doctor about the colorectal screening schedule best for you. 

 

Prostate Cancer.

Prostate cancer occurs more often in men 50 and older and is most common in men over 65. In general, men 50 and older should receive annual prostate cancer screenings. However, African-American men and men with close family members who have had prostate cancer are at greatest risk. These men should begin prostate cancer screenings at age 40.

Screening tests can often detect prostate cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful. A complete prostate exam usually includes a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The Foundation sponsors free screenings for prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer screenings can be performed by several kinds of doctors: urologists, oncologists, or any primary-care physician (family physician, general practice physician, internal medicine doctor or geriatrics physician).

 

Pap Test.

Pap tests can detect precancerous changes in the cells of your cervix before they become cancer. They can also detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when it can be treated most easily. According to the American Cancer Society, all women should have Pap tests starting at age 21. Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV (human papillomavirus) test every five years. Women over age 65 who have had regular screening with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Once screening is stopped, it should not be started again. A woman who has had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious precancer should not be screened. A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group. 

 

Mammogram.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is a safe, effective way to detect cancerous tumors and other abnormal breast conditions. Mammograms can locate a tumor before it can be easily felt and while it is easier to treat. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two years for women aged 50 to 74. The American Cancer Society and other organizations have different age recommendations. Talk with your health care provider about when you should start having mammograms, and how often you should have them. He or she will make a recommendation based on your risk and your medical and family history.