Yes, Now Really is the Time for your Annual Check Up!
“Procrastination is my sin.
It brings me naught but sorrow.
I know that I should stop it.
In fact, I will — tomorrow!”
— Gloria Pitzer
If you were like me, you stayed far from the doctor’s and dentist’s office this spring and summer and procrastinated doing your annual check-up because of COVID-19. Now that September is here, New Yorkers who delayed their wellness checks should reevaluate and consider getting them done. In New York, COVID-19 infectivity rates are low and the flu season is still 6 weeks away which gives us a window of time to get going on preventative health initiatives. If we continue to stall, a second wave of COVID-19 infections could strike over the fall or winter forcing us to continue delaying. A likely consequence of this widespread behavior among the general population could result in a large uptick in undetected cancer or heart conditions. Also alarming, could be a recurrence of vaccine-preventable illnesses because people are avoiding health care out of fear.
Many primary care practices are mindful of the nervousness around going to a medical office and have adjusted their protocols to promote patient safety. Some stagger patients’ appointments so there is a reduced number in any given day. Many patients can check in ahead of time by texting the office once they are curbside. They are screened for the coronavirus symptoms and temperature checked in their vehicles or at the office practice entrance and can then wait in their cars or in sparsely populated waiting rooms to be called in for treatment. PPE protocols including mandatory mask wearing and strict sanitizing are rigorously enforced. Once called, patients are brought straight to a treatment room. For the frail home-bound elderly, home medical visits are becoming increasingly popular as an option to reduce exposure.
During an annual physical, your primary care provider will assess your overall health and review any on-going or previous medical issues and ask screening questions to identify any new medical problems.
Almost every physical exam will include:
- A measurement of your height and weight
- Screening for alcohol and tobacco use
- Screening for depression
- Vaccinations such as influenza or pneumonia and shingles if you are older
Physical exams may include the following tests/blood work:
- Blood pressure screening
- Heart rhythm screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Colon cancer screening — especially for people ages 50–75
- Diabetes screening
- Hearing test
- Osteoporosis screening – especially for women and some men over age 65
- Infectious disease screening
- Skin cancer screening
For women only:
- Breast exam — Every 3 years for women ages 20–39, and every year for women 40–64
- Mammogram — Every 1–2 years for women over age 40
- Pelvic exam and pap smear
For men only:
- Prostate cancer screening
For more information on annual screenings go to https://www.cdc.gov/family/checkup/index.htm
Written by Anne Sansevero