Check it out: Some must-do screenings and self-exams

February 16, 2017

Some must-do screenings and self-examsiStock-477811328.jpg

There's no denying how popular DIY projects are today. We love to roll up our sleeves and get it done. But what about health screenings that can alert us to possible health problems? Can we tackle some of those ourselves too?

You'll need a doctor for most screening tests and exams, of course. But you can do some checks yourself, often with a doctor's input or recommendation. Examples of both are below. Keep in mind, these are generalized guidelines. You may need screenings earlier, more often or not at all. Ask your doctor what's right for you.

At homeAt a provider's office
Step on a scale. Type the result (plus your height) into a body mass index (BMI) calculator, like this one, to see if you're overweight or obese: Mammograms. From ages 45 to 54, women should have yearly breast cancer screenings, switching to every two years after that.
Measure your waist. Place a tape just above your hipbones, exhale and measure. A waist greater than 40 inches for men or 35 for women boosts type 2 diabetes and heart disease risks. Colonoscopy. Starting at age 50, colonoscopies or other screening tests are recommended for both men and women to help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early.
Check your feet if you have diabetes. Your doctor may have you look for and report any sores or other problems before they become major infections. Pap tests. Starting at 21, regular Pap smears help guard against cervical cancer in women.
Check your skin for cancer. Frequent (such as monthly) self-skin checks may help you find cancer early. Changing moles, blemishes or other worrisome-looking areas on your skin should be shown to your doctor. Blood pressure checks. Have your doctor check your blood pressure at least every two years—and more often if you have certain conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Monitor your blood pressure. Your doctor may have you use a portable monitor at home if, for instance, you have borderline high blood pressure or your readings might be high only at the doctor's office. Cholesterol blood tests. Start at 35, or age 20 if you have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Cancer Society; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; U.S. National Library of Medicine

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