The secret to good health is staying on top of it. Failure to spot signs and symptoms of disease and disorders can delay diagnosis and treatment. Delay, at best, will limit treatment options and, at worst, lead to death.
Health screenings can catch a disease early, providing time to make lifestyle changes or options for less invasive treatment. There are a growing number of screening tools and methods for a wide range of health issues. Some even are designed for you to do yourself in the comfort of your own home.
We are our DNA, which means that even the healthiest among us should screen for genetic conditions. A combination of smart lifestyle choices and health surveillance could be lifesavers. Here are 5 screenings that could help.
1. Sexually Transmitted Infections
The rate of STIs keeps rising as people can pass them along to every sexual partner they have. To reduce these numbers, there are two steps people can take. Step 1—More people should get screened for STIs. Step 2—Take precautions to keep from transmitting them.
Despite their prevalence, STIs can be an embarrassing topic for some people to discuss with their doctors. That’s why a lot of people don’t get screened for them. However, you can test yourself with at-home STI testing, so there’s no excuse not to.
Bacterial STIs, such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, can usually be cured with antibiotics. So can trichomoniasis, which is a parasitic STI. Although viral STIs, such as HPV, HIV, herpes, and hepatitis aren’t curable, they are treatable.
Left untreated, STIs can be painful and cause serious issues. They can cause fertility issues for both men and women, pregnancy issues for women, and health issues for unborn children. Syphilis can cause blindness, dementia, bone damage and can lead to organ failure. Hepatitis B can cause cirrhosis of the liver, which is incurable and deadly.
2. Colorectal Cancer
Some cases of colon cancer are hereditary. Even very healthy people can develop colorectal cancer if there is a family history of it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered the recommended age for colorectal screening from 50 to 45. A doctor may recommend screening at an even younger age for those with a family history of the disease.
You may need to be screened annually if you’re high risk, or every few years if not, at least until age 75. Screening methods include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and virtual colonoscopy using a CT scanner.
As with STI testing, there are do-it-yourself stool tests for colorectal cancer if you’re at low risk for the disease. Your doctor can prescribe fecal blood or fecal immunochemical test kit for you to do at home. Just send it back to your doctor or the lab (as instructed), and your doctor will get the results.
3. Bone Density
Bone density might not be the first health issue that comes to mind when you’re considering deadly conditions. However, there is a high mortality rate among men and women following spine and hip fractures. Both are common with osteoporosis, a disease characterized by poor bone density.
More than 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis. Small-boned and postmenopausal women, smoking, overconsumption of alcohol and caffeine, low calcium, and lack of exercise are risk factors. Overall, poor nutrition and conditions that cause malabsorption of nutrients, such as celiac disease, also increase your risk.
Bone density is also one of those things you lose as you age. The good news is, unlike other conditions, it can always be improved with weight-bearing exercise, diet, or prescription medications.
Early screening is key to diagnosing bone loss because dietary and exercise changes can restore it, and testing is painless. Your heel is a key indicator of bone density. It can be measured with x-rays, portable scanners, a full-body DEXA Scan, or a CT scan.
most common type of cancer in the U.S. Melanoma, which can spread to other organs if not treated, is more deadly than nonmelanoma cancers. However, all skin cancers can be successfully treated if caught early.
Our skin is an organ; in fact, it is the largest organ of the human body. It protects us from sunlight and infection, controls body temperature, and stores water, fat, and Vitamin D. Squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes are in the epidermal layer of skin.
Changes in mole size, shape, color, or texture are signs of potential cancers. Screening entails a visual review of your body by a dermatologist. If they find anything suspicious, they will biopsy a piece and analyze it for malignancy.
It would help if you screened yourself by becoming familiar with the moles, bumps, and spots on your body. However, it’s pretty tough to see all of the areas of skin, like your own back, buttocks, and scalp. Visit your dermatologist once a year to catch cancer early.
284,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2021. Although the rate of new cases is frightening, early detection can drastically improve survival rates.
Both men and women can get breast cancer, although it is far more prevalent in women. Age, inherited genetic mutations, dense breasts, and a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are risk factors. Women who started menstruating before age 12 and menopause after age 55 are also at greater risk. Finally, taking hormones, including birth control, could also increase your probability of developing breast cancer.
Exercise, healthy postmenopausal weight, and limiting alcohol intake are ways to reduce your risk. So are having a pregnancy before age 30 and breastfeeding.
It would help if you did a visual and self-exam monthly to search for lumps, tenderness, or nipple discharge. It would help if you had your doctor do a clinical breast exam annually starting at age 40. In general, mammograms are recommended annually from age 45 to 55 and every two years after 55. However, family history will dictate earlier and more frequent mammograms.
An Ounce of Prevention
Early detection of disease and disorders saves time, physical and emotional distress, and money. The cost to treat an advanced disease can be overwhelming, especially if you have limited or no health insurance.
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reducing risk factors by making healthy lifestyle choices and getting screened for diseases as recommended weigh an ounce. You can’t prevent every disease, but if you remain vigilant, you might find it early enough to fight.