Medical tests can help detect a condition, determine a diagnosis, plan treatment, check to see if treatment is working, or monitor your health over time.
Every year you should have four important medical tests. These screenings can help prevent serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
1. Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of how much force is exerted by the blood against the walls of your arteries. It’s usually expressed as two numbers, systolic (measured when the heart beats) and diastolic (measured between heartbeats).
In some cases, blood pressure can be elevated even without symptoms. For instance, some people with high blood pressure may feel nervous or have sweaty palms, difficulty sleeping or facial flushing.
If these are real signs of hypertension, it’s important to seek medical help immediately!
Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, brain and other parts of your body. It can also increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and other serious health problems.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that helps the body function properly. However, too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Your doctor can check your cholesterol level with a blood test called a lipid profile or a lipid panel. This test measures the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglyceride cholesterol in your blood.
LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol because it can clog the arteries and cause heart disease and stroke. HDL is called “good” cholesterol because it helps keep your arteries clear of LDL.
Your doctor will use your cholesterol results to determine your cardiovascular risk and make decisions about how to manage and treat it. Your doctor may also order other tests to help understand your risk better.
3. Colon Cancer Screening
Colon cancer is one of the most common and deadly forms of cancer in the United States. It begins when a tumor grows in the colon or the rectum, eats away at normal cells and converts them to cancerous ones.
Many people don’t notice any symptoms until their disease has reached an advanced stage, when it’s more difficult to treat. That’s why screening tests can be so important.
A colon cancer test can find problems that can be treated before the disease develops or spreads, reducing your risk for death and complications. Regular screenings also can help detect signs of polyps, which may become cancer if not removed.
Several types of colorectal cancer tests are available, some of which can be done in your home. Some are more thorough than others, but each has its pros and cons. You should discuss these with your doctor to decide which is right for you.
4. Breast Cancer Screening
Screening tests look for signs of disease, like breast cancer, before you have symptoms. They can help find cancers that are too small to cause any problems or that will grow slowly but never need treatment.
Women can have screening tests, such as mammograms and clinical breast exams, at a different age depending on their risk for cancer. For example, doctors recommend that women with hereditary risks of breast cancer, such as changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or certain genetic syndromes, have their risk assessed and be screened at a younger age than average-risk women.
Despite the benefits, there are some potential harms associated with screening. For example, repeated X-rays can expose women to small amounts of radiation. Also, some screening tests miss some cancers that don?t need to be treated. These are called false negative test results. These can lead to anxiety and can result in further tests, such as a biopsy.