Most people often think that a pain-free body means a healthy one. However as much as we all would love to assume so, we end up discovering diseases rather advanced in their stages, especially so in the case of cancers. Many a times when a critically ill patient is asked, they would relent and say “If only I had done a routine check-up, I may have detected this disease much earlier”. So the saying goes – prevention is better than cure.
In the era of booming information technology, there are many ways people can get their health assessed. The commonest way is doing blood tests for blood counts, sugar, cholesterol, kidney function and liver function; another way is to take urine tests, which is a very basic health screening tool. Some prefer to request for more detailed tests such as cancer markers, hepatitis screening, infectious disease screening, blood grouping, and plenty more. This allows the person to ascertain his or her risk of current or future disease depending on values of the results. If done at the doctor’s office, the health screening is often coupled with measurements of blood pressure, pulse rate, Body Mass Index (BMI) and vision assessments. These other parameters coupled with blood investigations increases the sensitivity of screening for various ailments.
Modern technology has revolutionised the equipment for medical screening. Today, we have ultrasound machines producing 5D images, CT scanners that emit minimal radiation, Cardiac MRIs and CT, Breast Tomography, Bone densitometers, etc. These machines serve to enhance the accuracy of detecting abnormalities hence diagnosing early disease. However a keen eye may just be able to do the same with the older and more mediocre machines. No matter how advanced or state of the art a machine may be, the human touch of physicians is always far superior in picking up health issues as physical examination and a patient’s history plays a pivotal role in diagnosis.
Women ought to have their routine pap smears, breast checks and mammograms done in order to prevent cancer which in becoming increasingly prevalent. The most important reason for women to undergo these health screenings is to increase the chances to treat a detected breast lump during the early stage before it reaches a precautious stage. Regular breast examinations will definitely reduce the risk of detecting sinister growths late. The same goes for pap smears. Given that the cervix is a hidden organ, it requires a regular yearly to biyearly examinations to detect abnormalities early.
Men too need to see their doctors if frequency of passing urine or nocturnal visits to the toilet increase. Benign prostatic hyperplasia which is very common amongst men above 50, this is easily treated and can be picked up during an examination. Blood tests such as the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) along with an ultrasound may pick up irregularity early so that prompt intervention may reduce long term morbidities.
Another important parameter worth monitoring is heart (cardiac) health which may be screened using ECGs, Stress ECG/Threadmill test, ECHO (Ultrasound of the heart) and CT or MRI angiography .These tools, depending on severity of disease, may prevent sudden cardiac mishaps if a cardiac ailment is noted during screening. Usually the attending doctor decides what type of test a patient needs to be subjected to in order to detect a particular heart disease. It is not routine for everyone to undergo cardiac evaluation.
Eye health is also an often neglected area of general screening. Often, certain eye conditions that lead to blindness can be avoided if early screening is done, for example in the case of glaucoma. Doctors may also pick up refractory disorders that may be causing children to perform badly in school just because their vision is impaired. Therefore, simple screening tools like visual acuity and field of vision are important in picking up eye problems.
In summary health screening is vital in disease prevention. Early detection of diseases may save lives hence time invested in getting a check-up done is well worth it!
By: DR JULIANA SAMUEL
KLINIK FAMILI DR JULIANA
BLOCK B, IRAMANIS CENTRE
KOTA KINABALU, 88450, SABAH