Ignorance is not always a bliss especially when it comes to our health. And while many factors affect people’s health-seeking behavior—poverty and lack of access to health services being the top reasons for millions of Filipinos—medical professionals assert the importance of determining the baseline of where one is, health-wise.
“Health screening is a simple and effective way to determine if you have a specific condition or disease, even if you show no symptoms or signs of it,” said Minerva Laconico, MD, head of the MMC HealthHub of Makati Medical Center (www.makatimed.net.ph).
She added, “Early detection helps you address the condition with the right treatment so you can better manage your health. It also increases your chances of overcoming the disease and reduces any risk of complications.”
"Early detection helps you address the condition with the right treatment so you can better manage your health."
In addition to lifestyle and family’s health history, other factors on which health check-ups are based are gender and age. The primary care center chief explained, in a statement, that health concerns naturally change with every passing decade.
20-29 years old
Young and at their peak, individuals in their 20s don’t usually consider health screenings necessary. “We need to change that mindset,” emphasized Dr. Laconico.
“Just because you don’t feel anything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see your health practitioner.”
Tests and exams for this decade should include determining body mass index in order to ascertain any health risk one may face if it is outside the healthy range; and establishing baseline blood pressure, cholesterol levels (especially if one has a family history of heart disease), blood sugar (to rule out diabetes), eyesight, and hearing.
Men: Dr. Laconico recommends a testicular exam as part of a general check-up, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, if one is sexually active.
Women: A yearly pelvic exam and pap smear every three years are recommended to check for signs of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. “A clinical breast exam every one to three years,” she added, “is also advisable for women with average risk for breast cancer.”
30-39 years old
Regular evaluation of BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar remains the top priority for individuals of all genders in this decade to determine whether they are actively taking care of their well-being.
Women: Those who have a history of breast cancer in the family are recommended to take a mammogram. Sexually active women can also consult their doctor about the best type of birth control, as well as taking a thyroid test, especially if they plan to get pregnant. “Thyroid hormones are crucial to the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system.”
40-49 years old
Aside from the usual health screenings, physicians will require more specific tests depending on one’s gender.
Men: “By this age, men can expect to undergo a prostate exam through a urologist, especially if there is a history of prostate cancer in the family,” said Dr. Laconico.
Women: The HealthHub recommends the Health Investment Female Rider which includes either a mammogram or breast ultrasound to check for signs of breast cancer, a transvaginal or transrectal ultrasound to rule out ovarian cancer, and a bone density test every three years to monitor signs of osteoporosis.
This is the age bracket in which both men and women should consider getting colonoscopy that tests for precancerous polyps and signs of colorectal cancer, according to Dr. Laconico. Combined with Fecal Occult Blood Test, these diagnostics can detect early signs of colon cancer, she added.