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Take Time for a Tune-up

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Featured Article

Take Time for a Tune-up
Article contributed by Mission Hospital of Mission Viejo

You may service your automobile regularly, make home repairs promptly and even take your pets for shots as needed. But are regular medical checkups on your list of things to do?

For most adults, an annual checkup is worth the effort. Michael Harris, M.D., an oncologist at Mission Hospital wishes more people realized the importance of regular checkups. "The importance is for early detection of disease to better enable a cure. Routinely, the woman who skips her mammogram one year, is often found to have a substantial lesion when the next screening is done." Waiting until there is something wrong can be costly in time, treatment and, in the event of a cancer diagnosis, it could mean your life.

Regular checkups establish a bond between patients and physicians, which can be an advantage if serious illness, such as cancer strikes. According to Dr. Harris, even younger adults should visit their physician once a year. "Doctors are the experts at disease detection and prevention. You should trust them to determine how often you should be seen." The following annual screenings are recommended for men, women and children who are in general good health:

Men and Women Under 50:
Height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels should be checked annually. Normal blood pressure is less than 140/90. Total cholesterol should be under 200 and "good" HDL cholesterol should be 35 or above.

Your doctor may give you advice about exercise and diet, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. A Tetanus shot is recommended once every ten years. It's also a good idea to have your skin examined for signs of skin cancer.

Men and Women over 50:
Both men and women should be tested for colorectal cancer. This is done with a sigmoidoscopy and digital rectal exam every five to ten years. Alternatively, many doctors recommend a baseline colonoscopy at age 50 to be repeated every five to 10 years. A fecal occult blood test is also used to detect hidden blood in the stool that may indicate polyps in the colon or a digestive tract disorder.

Specific Tests for Men:
A testicular self-exam should be done monthly under age 50. Men over the age of 50 may be advised to have prostate cancer screenings. These include a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test.

Specific Tests for Women:
A woman should have an annual Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer after age 18, or as soon as she is sexually active. Monthly breast self-exams are also recommended, along with a clinical breast exam during checkups. Starting at age 40, the American Cancer Society recommends an annual breast X-ray, or mammogram, to check for breast cancer.

Physicians may also discuss folic acid requirements, calcium intake, and bone density scans or hormone replacement therapy as needed.

Children:
Kids may not consider shots the best part of a doctor visit, but they're one of the most important parts of a child's checkup. Immunizations protect children against hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, and even chickenpox. All of these immunizations need to be given before children are 2 years old in order for them to be protected during their most vulnerable period. Check with your pediatrician or local health department for the recommended immunization schedule.

Your pediatrician should check to make sure your child is growing and developing properly. Advice on dental health, healthy eating habits and accident prevention is also important.

Older children may require a physical examination to participate in sports. Your physician can also give you tips on talking to older children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.

Above all, be honest and detailed with your physician. If you don't, it's like shadowboxing; the doctor treats what he thinks he sees. Adds Dr. Harris, "Your physician has dedicated his/her life to caring and for patients and their relationship with you is private. Ideally, your doctor is not only a trusted partner in healthcare, but over the years becomes a friend. They are available for your questions and concerns and if they cannot provide the information you need, they will know where to go to get answers."

Did You Know?

  • Three times more men than women have not seen a doctor in the past year.
  • One in three men have no regular doctor.
  • One in five women have no regular doctor.
  • Two-thirds of Americans don't get yearly physicals.

An A+ Examination

Most routine physical examinations have two parts: the interview, a survey of current concerns and past medical history; and the hands-on part, when the doctor checks for physical symptoms or administers medical tests. To maximize your time during the interview, take the following steps to prepare for your examination.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for an explanation of tests and how the information will benefit you.
  • Be prepared to give details of any specific problems.
  • Write a list of questions before your visit and take notes so you will remember important instructions.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups to establish a communicative relationship.

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About Mission Hospital
Mission Hospital is a 340-bed acute care, full-service facility serving all of south Orange County and houses the region's designated trauma center, one of only three in the county. Located in Mission Viejo, Mission Hospital offers a complete array of top-quality healthcare services.

 

Disclaimer: The above information is presented for educational purposes only. Statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products mentioned are not intended or effective for the treatment or prevention of any disease. Consult your physician for all your health needs.

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