We likely have all heard the familiar old proverb, "A stitch in time saves nine." Although usually, it refers to fixing a problem like a frayed sleeve or a leaky sink, it makes a lot of sense for your health too! To rephrase the proverb: "a screen in time saves lives." Detecting potentially life-threatening conditions before they can advance (and sometimes, before there are even any noticeable symptoms) gives doctors a chance to prevent damage and possibly even eliminate the disease entirely. Health screenings are a powerful tool that can save the lives of at-risk patients.
What to Watch For
Heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and kidney disease are some of the most common causes of death in the US today. Fortunately, there are commonly available screens for these and other diseases. It's easy to schedule one alongside your regular checkup. If your family has a history of any of these diseases, it's a good idea to test periodically for warning signs. Genetic predisposition plays a big role in a number of conditions.
A variety of common screenings are available at Augusta Health:
Cervical Screening – Like mammograms, cervical screens are important to women's health. Cervical screening can detect abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
Cholesterol Screening – Older adults and those with risk factors for heart disease should get their cholesterol levels checked every 4-6 years to ensure that potentially dangerous levels of cholesterol don't go untreated.
Colonoscopy – Colonoscopy is the best screening available for finding precancerous colon polyps. The American Cancer Society recommends screening for colon cancer at age 50, or earlier if you have more risk factors.
Diabetes Testing – Testing blood sugar can help doctors determine your risk for prediabetes and diabetes. You may want to schedule a blood test if there are diabetics in your family.
Genetic Risk Assessment – Augusta Health offers genetic risk assessments to help you identify cancer risks that may run in your family.
Lung Cancer Screening – Finding lung cancer at an earlier and more treatable stage dramatically improves patient survival rates, and screening is recommended for people with a history of smoking or lung damage.
Mammography – Breast imaging can detect cancerous cells and abnormalities in at-risk women long before a self-exam. Women above age 40 or with a family history of breast cancer are ideal candidates for regular screening.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Screening – Peripheral artery disease is an artery plaque buildup, especially in the legs. PAD indicates a higher risk of heart disease and can be screened for by comparing limb blood pressures.
Prostate Cancer Screening – For men with risk factors of prostate cancer, screening may be valuable for catching it early. Ask your doctor about the benefits of getting an exam if you or a loved one is unsure about prostate health.
Skin Cancer Screening – If you have light skin, a history of sun damage, or long sun exposure, it may be wise to have your dermatologist examine you periodically for skin cancers.
Stroke Screening – To check for risk of a stroke, your doctor can use ultrasound to examine blood vessels in your neck for plaque. Catching plaque early can mean treating it before a stroke occurs.
One more thing worth evaluating is mental health. Mental illnesses claim thousands of American lives a year through suicide. Suicide is actually among the top ten leading causes of death in the US. If you or a loved one struggles with stress, exhaustion, anxiety, and despair, a mental health evaluation could help you begin your path to recovery.
If you have risk factors for these or other health issues, don't hesitate to contact your doctor and ask if you should get a health screening.