July 18, 2022

How Important Are Health Screenings REALLY?

Key Takeaways

  • A health screening is performed to detect potential health concerns or diseases in people before symptoms present.
  • There are several factors that determine what type of health screening test you need, including age, family history, overall health, and health history. 
  • Health screenings can be performed at a doctor’s office, wellness center, women’s health center, hospital, or, depending on the test, at home. 
  • Measuring blood pressure, weight, and blood draws are all examples of health screening tests.

When it comes to your health, no one likes surprises. That’s why proactive health measures like health screenings are so important to your overall health and well-being.

In fact, every year, 7 in 10 American deaths are attributed to chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes - both of which can be significantly minimized or even prevented with early detection and appropriate treatment. Additionally, the CDC found that over 100,000 lives per year could be saved if everyone in the U.S. received the recommended clinical preventive care.

Despite the benefits, there are still a lot of questions surrounding health screening - like what is a health screening, where to get them, and if they are really necessary.

Let’s explore.

What is a Health Screening?

A health screening is performed to detect potential health concerns or diseases in people before symptoms present. The goal of a health screening is to catch conditions early enough to treat the condition more effectively and increase the likelihood of a positive health outcome.

If you’re an adult who visits the doctor regularly, then you’ve likely had your blood pressure taken, stepped on a scale to measure your weight, or had blood drawn to determine your cholesterol levels. All of these are examples of health screening tests.

What Are Common Health Screening Tests?

Your doctor will recommend the appropriate timing and frequency of health screenings depending on several factors, including age, overall health, family history, and your own health history, which we’ll cover later. Below are a few examples of common health screening tests:

Lipid panel

A lipid panel, also known as a lipid profile, is a blood test that measures the amount of lipid fat molecules in your blood. Healthcare providers typically recommend that you get your first lipid panel blood test at the age of 45 if you are a man and at the age of 50 if you are a woman.

However, your healthcare provider may suggest you get tested earlier if you are a smoker or you suffer from or are at high risk of certain diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, pancreatitis, or hypothyroidism.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA)

A PSA blood test is an important part of prostate health. This test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the bloodstream. The PSA protein is produced by normal and malignant cells but at different levels.

An elevated level of PSA may indicate prostate cancer. In addition to prostate cancer, elevated PSA levels may also be a sign of several non-cancerous conditions, such as an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) or an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia).

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a procedure a doctor uses to look at the inside of the colon and rectum to screen for cancer, check for polyps, treat an issue, or investigate for intestinal signs and symptoms.

Many organizations, like the USPSTF, recommend screening for colon cancer or colon polyps at age 50, or earlier if you have a family history or other risk factors.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. A skin cancer screening is a visual exam performed by checking the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other marks that are unusual in color, size, shape, or texture.

Identifying skin cancer in its early stages can make it easier to treat.

Breast cancer

About 1 and 8 adult U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Below are recommendations by the American Cancer Society for health screenings for breast cancer:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.

Cervical cancer

Also known as a Pap Smear, a cervical cancer screening can help find abnormal or changed cervical cells before they become cancerous. According to John Hopkins Medicine, women should start Pap smear screening at age 21.

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends screening for diabetes at three-year intervals beginning at the age of 45, especially if you are overweight or obese.

Sexually transmitted diseases

The CDC estimates there are nearly 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States - half of which among young people ages 15-24. Blood tests for STIs and STDs can be performed either at a doctor’s office or clinic, with an at-home STD test kit, or at home with a mobile phlebotomist service like Getlabs.

Do I Need a Health Screening?

It’s important to discuss health screening tests with your provider to determine if a screening is appropriate for you. However, it’s important to remember that there are not health screening tests available for every medical condition. Doctors will typically recommend a health screening test based on the following criteria:

  • A condition is common enough in the general population that the cost of a health screening test is justified.
  • A simple and affordable test exists.
  • An early stage of the condition exists where symptoms may not present themselves, but detecting the condition early enough significantly improves the long-term patient outcome.
  • Treatment is available.

Additionally, your family history plays an important factor in determining the type and frequency of health screenings. For instance, if there is a history of heart disease or certain cancers in your family, then certain health screenings should be performed earlier in life and more frequently.

Age plays an important role in the type of health screening you receive. The older you are, the more health complications you can expect to face. That’s why your physician may recommend additional tests for age related ailments or conditions.

Lastly, your health history is an important factor in the type of health screenings your doctor may recommend. For instance, if you are a current or former smoker, your physician may recommend certain CT lung cancer screenings. That’s why it’s incredibly important to be honest and share your health history with your physician so they can determine which tests are appropriate for you.

Where Can I Receive a Health Screening?

Health screenings can be performed at several point-of-care facilities. However, you may need to seek out a specialist provider depending on the condition or type of health screen. A few examples of where to receive a health screening test include:

  • Doctor’s office
  • Wellness center
  • Women’s health center
  • Specialty provider office
  • Hospital
  • At home

Get At-Home Health Screening with Getlabs.

If your doctor recommends a blood draw or lab work for a health screening, Getlabs can help you make it happen. With over 5,000 different lab tests available, Getlabs enables you to book a nearby phlebotomist for many of the tests your doctor may recommend.

If you have questions about how it works, go to getlabs.com/faqs to learn more.

This page is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice regarding any of the tests and conditions referenced above are advised to consult with a licensed clinician. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider regarding a medical condition and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information on this page. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital.

Book an at-home lab collection

Getlabs sends a nearby medical specialist to you to collect your labs for Labcorp and Quest. Available same-day, nationwide.

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