On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

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Screening and Test Recommendations from Hieu Nguyen, M.D.

As we age, there are different preventive screenings doctors recommend by age group. Regular screenings and tests at the right time in your life give you the opportunity to prevent diseases and major health events, like cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Your doctor will be able to assess which tests are best for you at specific times in your life based on your family history and other risk factors. We asked Hieu Nguyen, M.D. what he *recommends for his patients.

If you’re hesitant to stay on schedule with recommended screenings and tests, try to think about your health almost like you think about your car, Dr. Nguyen says.

“For example, with your car, you want to change the oil before it breaks down on the street,” Dr. Nguyen says. “You want to take care of health issues as soon as you can. Some people take better care of their cars than they take care of themselves.”

Screenings and tests to get at any age

Now that you’re on board with getting screened more regularly, how often should you visit your doctor? Dr. Nguyen suggests going to the doctor once a year.

“We should go in for a check-up every single year, even if we’re feeling good, so we don’t miss important tests and screening or vaccines,” he says. “See your family doctor and do a well visit. The problem is when you see doctors for a cold or a sick visit, they don’t usually have the time to discuss preventive care.”

There are many reasons why people don’t go to the doctor as often as they should, perhaps because they’re busy or they put others before themselves. Dr. Nguyen suggests an additional reason. “People are afraid,” he says. “They think, ‘I feel fine so why should I go see a doctor?’. There are a lot of things you can’t feel, though. For example, you can’t feel if your blood pressure is high or if you have high cholesterol. But those things can lead to other conditions over time.”

Dr. Nguyen also recommends psychiatric screenings at any age for men and women, especially if you are feeling depressed.

Screenings and tests recommended in your 20s and 30s

Unless you have average risk factors (for instance, if you are overweight or have family history of certain illnesses or cancers) there are not many screenings or tests to take in your 20s, since most are based on personal risk. However, Dr. Nguyen says that screening for cervical cancer in women every three years is important starting at age 21.

Dr. Nguyen also recommends screenings for sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia for sexually active men and women.

Your 30s are about focusing more on preventive medicine. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, make sure you exercise, don’t smoke, and to avoid drugs and excessive use of alcohol. For women, Pap smears for cervical cancer screenings can become less frequent after age 30, with screenings every five years instead of every three for those without other risk factors. However, INTEGRIS doctors like Dr. Courtney Seacat still believe a yearly pelvic exam is important.

For men, doctors used to recommend screening for prostate cancer, but now there’s no consensus and doctors have differing views on getting screened in your 30s, Dr. Nguyen says. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society currently do not recommend a screening in your 30s. However, both organizations do recommend discussing prostate cancer with your doctor if you are concerned about the risk.

A few screenings and tests recommended in your 40s

For men and women in their 40s who are overweight or obese, doctors may start screening for diabetes.

Doctors may also start screening for colon cancer in some patients who have an increased risk, like an immediate family member with colon cancer.

Although guidelines differ depending on the health organization setting the parameters, Dr. Denise Rable, who is an INTEGRIS breast surgical oncologist, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both continue to recommend every woman between the ages of 40-74 get a screening mammogram every year.

A few screenings and tests recommended in your 50s

For women, it’s recommended to continue getting breast cancer screenings every year.

For men, it is recommended to start really discussing a prostate exam with your doctor.

Men and women may also start screening for colon cancer at age 50. Dr. Nguyen often recommends a colonoscopy every 10 years or endoscopy every five years. “Most people should get a colonoscopy at age 50, a few need an endoscopy,” Dr. Nguyen says.

If you were born between 1945 and 1965, it is recommended you get a one-time screening for hepatitis C.

A few screenings and tests recommended at age 60+

For women, start screening for osteoporosis at age 65.

Men who were ever smokers and are between the ages of 65-75 maybe screened for abdominal aortic aneurysms.

The flu shot is recommended every year for men and women who are in their 60s or older.

It’s important to remember that as you age, you’re developing a higher risk for certain conditions. Taking the time to visit your doctor annually can help you live longer and healthier.

*(Disclaimer notice: This article is intended to provide general medical information and to support the promotion of health and wellness. The answers provided by Dr. Nguyen do not constitute medical advice and are not intended to be a substitute for medical care or advice provided by your physician or qualified provider.)

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