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Myths Surrounding Medical Check Ups
ALL CLEAR, ALL GOOD?
Having no health conditions found at your last medical check up does not mean you are clear today. Your last check up will only pick up health issues that were present then. Regular medical check ups are needed to detect conditions that may have developed after your previous check up.
Some diseases are more likely to develop with age. Examples include hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus and cancer. As our chances of developing these conditions increase, regular medical check ups are one way to combat problems early and stay healthy as we age.
ONCE EVERY 3 YEARS
There is a common assumption that you only need to go for a medical check up once every three years. That is untrue. The frequency of medical check ups should be based on the recommendation of your doctor. Your doctor will assess you and make personalised recommendations based on your individual risk factors, eg. age, race, gender, family history and personal medical history.
Screening for obesity should begin at age 18 and be done annually. Screening for hypertension (high blood pressure) should also start from age 18 and be done at least once every 2 years. Screening for diabetes and hyperlipidemia should be done once every 3 years, from the age of 40. If you have certain risk factors (eg. family history of diabetes), the check up should begin at the age of 35.
Screening for colon cancer should be done annually with a stool test from the age of 50 years. A mammogram (breast screening) should be done every 2 years (from age 50 – 69) and a Pap smear every 3 years (from age 25 – 69).
BASIC IS GOOD ENOUGH?
Basic medical check ups are generally sufficient for younger people with no personal history or family history of any medical conditions. However, in older patients or those with a personal or family history of medical conditions, the basic medical check up may not be enough.
It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all check up package, and medical check ups should be tailored to every individual, taking into account their risk factors. The basic medical check up package, in general, is for a young individual without any risk factors.
WHY GO FOR A CHECK UP WHEN I FEEL FINE?
Medical check ups are different from diagnostic tests, which are done when someone is already showing signs or symptoms of a disease.
Medical check ups involve the use of physical examinations, tests and other procedures to detect disease early in people who look or feel well. It is aimed at picking up a medical condition or disease at an early stage where there are no symptoms present yet.
This allows problems to be treated early, increasing chances of recovery or good control, and reducing the risk of complications, suffering or even death.
IT HAD BETTER DETECT EVERYTHING
While the tests used in a medical check up are the best available at the point of time, they are not foolproof, ie. they cannot predict results with 100% accuracy. This means that medical check ups might still fail to pick up certain diseases in some people. Fortunately, this is very rare.
In addition, some diseases can only be picked up by specific tests which are invasive or come with certain risks and side effects. These tests are thus not routinely offered. They are recommended only when the risks outweigh the benefits, such as when a patient experiences signs and symptoms of the disease.
IT IS UNCOMFORTABLE & PAINFUL
Medical check ups are generally not unpleasant, except for certain procedures like venipuncture for blood taking. You can raise it with your doctor if you are not comfortable with any procedure during the check up.
Experienced and caring staff, as well as a conducive clinic environment, can help you feel more comfortable and alleviate unease. You may consider bringing a relative or friend to accompany you, and remind yourself that the doctors and staff are working to help you.