How Often Do I See My Doctor?

These days, immunizations are for adults as well as children. So are a number of other preventive measures, as well as screening for conditions that, when diagnosed and treated, can lead to a longer and more enjoyable life. Here is more detailed information regarding some of those recommendations.

Tetanus-Diphtheria Booster Shots: The great news here is that the Td (tetanus/diphtheria) booster has become the TDaP. It now has a booster for the pertussis (whooping cough) bacteria that is so lethal in young babies, but in adults causes a very prolonged coughing illness that can last weeks or months. Getting this booster not only prevents tetanus and diphtheria, but reduces your risk of contacting whooping cough and passing it on to young babies or elderly persons. You should get the TDaP once as an adult. You can get this as long as it has been at least two years since your last Td booster.

Pap Smear/Pelvic Exam: The real news here is that a woman does not need her first Pap smear until age 21, by the new recommendations, even if first intercourse is prior to that age. Younger women still need appropriate contraception and STD screening. While women under the age of 21 should not use this new recommendation as a reason not to seek appropriate women’s health exams, Pap testing at a young age can lead to unnecessary testing and treatment. Women over 21 years old need regular Pap testing every year unless told by their physician that less-frequent testing is OK. We hope cervical cancer will be less common as the younger generation of women get the HPV vaccination, but Pap testing remains the mainstay of cervical cancer screening and prevention, and has been one of the major successes of modern medicine.

Blood Pressure Screening: At Findlay Family Practice, we try to check your blood pressure at every office visit. Hypertension remains one of the most under-treated conditions, and lost opportunities for disease prevention in the U.S. today. All adults should have their BP checked regularly and, if diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), work with their provider at FFP to get control of this condition.

Cholesterol Testing: Adults should have cholesterol screening every five years if their cholesterol has been normal on prior testing. If it is high or borderline, or if you have other medical conditions like diabetes or atherosclerosis, your provider may recommend more frequent testing. If you are on treatment for high cholesterol, we will ask you to have your cholesterol levels checked at least annually.

Prostate Cancer Screening: This is one of the most controversial issues in cancer screening. Those most at risk are men age 50 and older, and men age 40 and older who are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer. Men in these high-risk groups should read about the pros and cons of testing, and discuss them with their provider at FFP. We want to provide you with the information you need in order to make an informed decision, whether or not you decide to have the testing done.

Colon Cancer Screening: This is not a synonym for colonoscopy, though colonoscopy is a very good screening test for colon cancer. Some patients cannot afford colonoscopy, or will choose a different screening test like annual stool testing for occult blood. All adults age 50 and older, and younger adults with a family history of colon cancer in young family members, should be tested regularly. Colon cancer is one of the few truly preventable diseases for most people.

Osteoporosis Screening: Many women age 50 and older are at risk for osteoporosis, and screening is simple and can lead to effective treatment to prevent fractures of the spine, hip and wrist. Women who are thin, fair-skinned, smoke, use thyroid medication, have taken certain medications, or who have a family history of osteoporosis may want to get screened with a DEXA scan. Ask your provider if you should have this screening.

Breast Cancer Screening: Women over age 50, and many women age 40-50, should have annual mammography and physical in-office breast exams. Home self-breast exams are fine, but they are not a substitute for in-office exams and mammography. Early diagnosis is the key to preventing advanced breast cancer and its life-threatening problems.

Shingles Vaccination: The fairly-new drug, Zostavax, can reduce the chance of shingles in adults over age 60 by over 50%, and reduce the chance of severe shingles and long-standing pain by over 75%. This is a one-time vaccination, and is recommended for all adults age 60+. It is well worth getting, and is easy to overlook. Ask us about it at your next visit.

Pneumonia Vaccination: The Pneumovax vaccine is recommended for adults age 65 and older, and younger adults with asthma, chronic lung disease and many other chronic illnesses. All adults over 65 years old need this vaccine one time. If you have not had it, get it with your next flu shot or physical exam.

Diabetes Screening: Adults should have screening every two to three years. This can often be done at the time of a routine physical exam.

This is quite a list. Assuring that you get these things done is best achieved at an annual physical exam. We recommend that adults age 40-65 get annual physical exams. This is an opportunity to not just have a good history and physical exam done, but to get address the issues above that pertain to you. Schedule your exam now.