If you’re fit and healthy, you may not need to visit the doctor regularly. However, most diseases are preventable, so early detection could be a vital life-saving precaution, writes ORLA NELIGAN.
Age, personal circumstances and family history all play a role in whether you should visit your doctor. Dr Serena Gavin of Churchtown Medical Clinic points out that “a person in their twenties, thirties or forties who present no significant health issues or family history of illnesses doesn’t need to be seen for a health check. Once you reach 50, it’s important to consider various tests such as cardiovascular and cancer screenings.”
Gavin adds that a common misconception amongst patients is that “getting your bloods” done will give you a full MOT without seeing a doctor. “There are a lot of conditions and illnesses that don’t show up on certain blood tests, such as skin or lung cancer. If a person is worried enough to make an appointment to get their bloods done, their fears need to be explored and discussed by a doctor.”
Most life-threatening illnesses are preventable, and while you may be healthy, certain health checks are a necessary precaution. So, what health checks should you be getting in each decade of your life?
You’re young and invincible, right? The last thing on your radar is health issues, but according to Dr Nina Byrnes, owner of Generation Health Clinics and medical expert on TV3’s Doctor in the House, a baseline screening to determine a medical history and identify potential future risks is important in your twenties, as are the choices you make. “Part of the innocence of being young is not thinking about the future or one’s mortality, but the choices you make in your twenties have an impact on your health later in life.”
Your twenties are the decade of your sexual peak, so if you’re sexually active, it’s important to be tested for STIs, especially chlamydia, which is typically asymptomatic in women and can affect fertility. Last year, 9,764 patients were diagnosed with chlamydia, accounting for over two-thirds of overall sexual infections (letsgetchecked.com), and a staggering one in six Irish people have never had a sexual check-up. A Pap smear tests for changes to cells in the cervix before they develop into cancer, which is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) transmitted by sexual intercourse. According to Dr Walley, 50 per cent of people who develop cervical cancer have never had a Pap smear test.
You may think you’re years away from skin damage, but according to skincare specialist Dr Katherine Mulrooney of Dublin’s Dr Mulrooney Clinic, 80 per cent of sun damage to your skin is done in the first 20 years of your life. Get to know your skin and check moles haven’t changed shape or colour. Ninety-five per cent of skin cancer can be treated successfully if detected early.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of IMAGE Magazine.