In the past, it was common belief that everyone should get a physical exam from a doctor every year. As an entering adulthood it was believed necessary for everyone with varying reasons based on gender, age and family history in order to both detect and prevent varying conditions. However, nowadays more experts are starting to back down from the previous belief and now the number of office visits recommended has begun to dwindle. Still, there are some who believe you should get certain check-ups on a regular basis. Which medical checkups should you get annually? There are a few factors to consider.
One of the most common reasons many have recommended annual checkups is for prevention. This includes not only the general talk to the doctor and the physical but also can involve the administration of certain immunizations. Some vaccines can be done at the local pharmacy instead of doctor's office and without a prescription but it will depend on your insurance and local availability. Other insurance plans will only cover the shots if they are done at an in-network clinic, so it all depends on your insurance plan.
Very few vaccines are required on an annual basis. Some are not required unless traveling or moving into a particular area of the world, which also means may be an out of pocket expense for you as well. Some may not annual but instead have a ten year time frame, including the one for tetnus, diptheria and whooping cough. For most the tdap is recommended every ten years but for women it is also necessary for every pregnancy. The common thought was if you did something like step on a nail, you need a tetnus shot just in case. However, due to the differing conditions it covers it is also needed not only if you are female and get pregnant but also if someone close to you has a baby due to the concern over whooping cough.
Aside from the varying shots with boosters, there is the annual recommendation of the flu vaccine, which is done every year based on the determined strain. The flu vaccine is use not only for prevention but also for those who still come down with the flu, the severity of the condition will be lessened due to the vaccination. This may be done at the doctor's office, pharmacy or even in locations where short term clinics are held (including where you work).
Vaccines are a small part of the whole picture when it comes to the need to consult a doctor. Depending on age and family history, you may need an annual or regular exam in order to check for and prevent certain health conditions. Physical exams help check general health and there are a number of different lab tests that can be conducted over the years that you may need in order to prevent or combat possible medical Diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that are both based on family history and your current physical condition (including weight) are all something that can be checked during a medical checkup.
Women also have a particular visit that is commonly thought to be every year. The gynecological exam has been recommended as an annual visit for most women for a number of reasons with the pap smear and breast exams conducted in order to help test for and prevent certain conditions. If you are female, you still may need to see a doctor on a regular basis for the exam but there are some who don't have to put it on the calendar as an annual visit.
Those who are not sexually active, for example, such as women who are asexual can go a little longer between pap smears since often a lot of the exams are based around sexually transmitted conditions. After age 45, women also need to get a mammogram. The age recommendations do vary with some stating that it should be annual from age 45 to 54 and over 55 as every 1-2 years while others claim that from 54-75 it can be done every two years. It is considered an important in order to help detect breast cancer and the earlier it is detected the better.
Men aren't left out of the need for physical exams and certain screening, however. If you are male and above a certain age (roughly age 50 and above) it is recommended to get a prostate exam to check for prostate cancer. If you have a family history or are in a higher risk category the age when this becomes a recommended exam can be at age 40 or 45 depending on the degree of risk factors involved. A colonoscopy may also be recommended though not on an annual basis.
Aside from the physical tests there are other elements that help with the screening and detection of conditions that are done more often in the doctors office. This can involve a swab, a urine/feces example, or even blood work. These parts of the exam are then sent to a lab with results being provided later in either a follow-up visit, through email or letter correspondences or even over the phone depending on the result.
When it comes to lab work, there are also a few alternatives to the yearly exam. Currently at home lab tests are available that can help with screening so that a doctors visit may not be necessary unless results require a follow up. These tests are available online and at times in local stores including retail pharmacy. There are at home lab tests that check for colon cancer and HIV. A few tests in retail stores include those that help with family planning like ovulation, gender and even paternity. The drug tests are also common and a little more known but the options for at home are reaching new heights with others being advertised on tv companies like Hulu and Netflix providing even more options for the consumer to get tests and results from home instead of through a medical exam.
These at home lab tests have expanded to give you more options from possible food sensitivies to sleep/stress to even testing not often done at the doctor's office like to your DNA and get very personalized information based on your exact genetic makeup. These check tests all have different costs with some that qualify for use of an HSA or FSA account and can be done in the convenience and privacy of your own home without the consultation of a doctor.
While there are more options for you outside of the doctor's office for screening, lab tests and prevention methods that include immunization, an annual checkup may still be necessary. It's not a blank statment, you absolutely needs to get the same exam every single year, however. The frequency of visits depends on your age, family history and current health conditions. The regular doctor's visit or checkup can be helpful for prevention and peace of mind, whether you go on an annual basis or every couple of years.