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?
While 40 doesn’t much resemble what it did for our mother’s generation (how many of our moms had young toddlers in their forties and ran marathons at the weekends?), the number is still meaningful when it comes to our health. We may be feeling younger, thanks to knowledge and medicine, but the risks of developing certain conditions and diseases are still there. “Women in their forties and fifties are often between two generations pulling at them – they’re possibly caring for elderly parents and running around after toddlers or teenagers, so it’s important to keep check of your mental health and stress levels,” notes Dr Gavin.
“This is the decade to assess family history,” she says. “If a patient has family members who have had bowel cancer, for example, I would be checking family history such as what age that person was when they got the disease and other family members that may have had it. I would normally advise a patient in that situation to get a colonoscopy ten years earlier than an otherwise healthy person with no family history.”
It’s important to know your breasts to detect any changes. Regular self-exams are recommended, and if there is family history, a mammogram may be suggested.
Often referred to as the “silent thief of sight”, glaucoma is essentially symptomless and can lead to blindness if undetected or untreated. In Ireland, about 1,000 people have open-angle glaucoma (the most common form), with 85-90 new cases being detected each year. Unless there is evidence of glaucoma in your family history, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists recommend you have an eye exam at the age of 40 and every two years following.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of IMAGE magazine.