March 31, 2021 by Amy Jo Sorensen, DO

Amy Jo Sorensen, DO, North Mankato Family Medicine

Did you cancel your annual check-up in 2020? You’re not alone. And we understand. Your healthcare provider will be happy to see you no matter how long it’s been!

You can rest assured that medical clinics have extra precautions in place to ensure patient safety. It’s time to get your healthcare back on track.  

Annual check-ups, also known as preventative visits, are the easiest way to stay healthy and up-to-date on routine cancer screenings. Screenings are tests to find cancer before symptoms show up. Common screenings include regular mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap tests. These are the best methods to detect cancer in its earliest stages when it’s easiest to treat.

Here’s how your annual check-up can improve your health.

Cancer screenings

At your annual check-up, also known as a well woman visit, you may be screened for cervical cancer. Pap smears are recommended every 3 years for women age 21-29 to screen for cervical cancer. From age 30 to 65, the preferred screening method is a Pap test combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 3-5 years.

These screenings can actually prevent cervical cancer because we can detect abnormal cervical cell changes, known as pre-cancers. We can treat the abnormal cells before they become a cervical cancer.

Beginning at age 40, the American College of Radiology recommends that women of average risk should get annual mammograms which can find breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is most successful. For women with a higher risk for breast cancer, your primary care provider may advise mammograms earlier.

Mammograms are not a one and done! Annual mammograms allow us to compare your breast tissue from year to year and look for changes.

If you’re 50, it’s time for a colon cancer screening. Many people delay this screening, but a colonoscopy is better than cancer any day!

From age 50 to 75, the U.S. Preventive Task Force recommends colonoscopies every 10 years or sooner for those with risk factors or a family history of colon cancer. Talk about risk factors and your family history with your provider to see if screening should begin before age 50. And if you have African American ancestry, please talk with your provider about being screened at age 45.

While a colonoscopy is the best at preventing colon cancer, by removing polyps and other pre-cancerous lesions, you may consider a FIT test, which is a stool screening test. A FIT test is completed annually, and may take the place of colonoscopy.

Preventive care

At your annual check-up, we review your overall health including your medical history, family health history, medications and mental health. We can discuss your risks for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Your provider may recommend a simple blood test to measure your cholesterol and blood sugar. Most healthy adults should get their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. Your cholesterol and blood sugar numbers can help us determine if steps are needed to lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

This is another great opportunity to discuss stress, behavioral health, and self-care. It’s important to take care of your mind and body. These are rough times and everybody could use a little support.

Your annual check-up also helps you and your primary care provider get to know each other better. It’s so important to establish trust and comfort with your healthcare provider.

So stop worrying and schedule your annual check-up. Your provider will be happy to see you.