Dr David Howdijam MD
Nowadays, people are beginning to take a more active role in healthcare they and their loved ones receive. Needless to say, taking more responsibility for understanding one’s care and communication with the healthcare provider can extend one’s healthy years.
PREVENTIVE MEDICINE is one area of healthcare in which all people can exercise more responsibility and control. Getting regular screening tests for common health problems is a simple and effective first step.
Screening tests can give people and their healthcare providers the complete information needed to identify health risks and preventive measures before they become more serious issues. Screening tests include self-checks, clinical exams, non-laboratory tests (such as imaging tests), and laboratory tests. Let’s focus on laboratory screening tests.
Getting routine tests performed even though you have no symptoms can help detect problems early and help you benefit from easier and more effective treatment. It can sometimes even prevent disease. It’s easy to take screening tests for granted, but their ability to keep you healthier longer should not be underestimated. For example, if one has a family history of type-2 diabetes, catching the disease in its early stage may help the person prevent or manage the condition with diet and exercise alone. Without early detection by a routine screening test, he or she could miss the opportunity to prevent diabetes, which could result in serious complications and a need for more intensive diabetes management.
SCREENING TESTS FOR A HEALTHIER LIFE
Screening tests play a large role in preventive medicine and are an important part of a physical exam. They have two major benefits:
- Encouragement to make positive changes: Even if you’re healthy, you can learn to guard your health more closely if a test reveals, for example, a borderline high cholesterol level. Test results can help you take steps to reduce your risk and the likelihood that you will develop a life-threatening disease or disabling condition.
- Early detection:Even before symptoms are recognised or increased risks are identified, screening tests help detect disease in its early and most treatable stages.
BASIC HEALTH COMPETENCY
To get the best medical care available today, people need to develop basic knowledge and skills related to their medical care. Doing so will help themoverseetheir preventive care and get the most from your screening tests. Even more important than knowing which tests to have and when to have them is the knowledge of what one’s major risks are and how one can prevent the diseases he or sheis at risk of developing. Understanding one’s personal risks and managing the preventive care will seem much less daunting if the person has developed good overall health literacy. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand the basic information necessary to make health decisions. It involves a diverse set of skills, including understanding graphs, making basic calculations, and obtaining, evaluating, and applying information. To take full advantage of your screening tests and obtain the best preventive care, you should:
- Know your family health history and make sure your doctor knows it.
- Know which problems you are at risk for and make sure you tell your doctor.
- Know which immunisations you had done and make sure your doctor knows about them.
- Always be willing to ask your health care providers questions or suggest clarification if they say something you don’t understand.
- Increase your awareness about the common medical tests that are of value to you.
- Be willing to make lifestyle adjustments as advised by your doctor based on your test results.
CUSTOMISED, PERIODIC HEALTH EXAMS
In addition to certain common screening tests, in a health exam, people are usually checked for blood pressure (BP), body-mass index (BMI), and sometimes vision and hearing tests (according to age). Today, preventive services are customised taking into account one’s health status, risk factors, and personal and family health history. This means, the set of screening tests required differs from person to person.
PREVENTION IS A CHOICE
It is up to each individual to choose to have regular screening tests. While there is expert consensus about many areas of screening, there are some areas – like breast and prostate cancer screening – where expert opinions have differed, or changed, in recent years. In the case of some screening tests, the individual and his or her healthcare provider will have to work together, considering one’s risks and personal preferences, to determine which are best for the person.
Overall, the benefits of regular screening are compelling. When diseases are detected early, your treatment is likely to be more effective and economical and your quality of life is usually better. Your healthcare provider can help you understand what you are at risk for and what you can do about it, if you make time for routine screening tests as part of a regular health exam.
The writer is Junior Consultant Pathologist, BABINA Diagnostics, Imphal