All the Ways We Care: How an Once of Prevention…Can Save Your Life

People who want to live a long and healthy life choose to be proactive about their health. They exercise regularly, they try to eat a healthy diet, and if they’re smart, they take advantage of every medical screening that is appropriate for their age and gender. Fortunately, thanks to Main Street Hospital and your personal physician, you and your family have convenient access to a comprehensive range of preventive medical screenings that are very efficient at identifying a disease at an early stage, when treatment is much more effective.

Here are some of the screenings that are available. Talk to your doctor to see which ones you need to have. It may be just a brief conversation, but it could end up being the one discussion that saves your life.

For Colorectal Cancer: Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy exam is used to detect changes in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. A long flexible tube, fitted with a tiny video camera, is inserted into the rectum. This allows the doctor to see and remove any polyps, which can become cancerous.

As Kathy Ireland advises in this issue’s cover story (pages 2-3), almost everyone age 50 and older needs to have a colonoscopy every 10 years or a virtual colonoscopy every five years to check for colorectal cancer.

For Prostate Cancer: DRE and PSA
There are two screenings available to check for prostate cancer: a digital rectum exam (DRE) and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. The second screening checks the level of PSA in the blood, which can be higher in men with prostate cancer.

See the recommendations on page 4 to know when to talk to your doctor about having a prostate cancer screening.

For Cervical Cancer: Pap Test
Women should have a Pap test starting at age 21 (but not sooner) according to the following schedule.

  • Women ages 21-29: Pap test every three years, but no HPV test unless the Pap test is abnormal.
  • Women ages 30-65: The preferred approach is to have a Pap test AND an HPV test every five years. You can also have the Pap test alone every three years.
  • Women older than 65: Testing should stop if previous tests have been normal. Women who have been diagnosed with pre-cervical cancer should continue to be screened for at least 20 years after any abnormality was found.

For Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Fortunately, a wide of variety of preventive screenings and diagnostic tests are available, and many are covered by health insurance. Here are just some of the screenings available.

Cholesterol Test
This test is helpful in determining your risk for a heart attack
or stroke. The test usually checks your:

  • HDL Cholesterol: The “good’ cholesterol that helps keep your blood flowing freely.
  • LDL Cholesterol: The “bad” cholesterol that reduces blood flow.
  • Total Cholesterol: Your HDL and LDL combined.
  • Triglycerides: Another type of fat found in the blood.

Starting at age 20, you should have a cholesterol test at least every five years and more often if you:

  • Are a man over 45
  • Are a woman over 50
  • Have cholesterol over 200
  • Have a low LDL count (less than 40 for men and less than 50 for women)
  • Are obese or have high blood pressure
  • Are being treated for high cholesterol

Electrocardiogram (EKG)
An EKG (short for electrocardiogram and also called an ECG) checks the heart’s electrical activity and rhythm. An EKG is often used to find the cause of unexplained chest pain as well as other symptoms of heart disease, such as irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting.

High frequency sound waves (ultrasound) examine the heart’s structure and function during this painless procedure.

Chest X-ray
Checks for an enlarged heart or fluid build-up in the lungs.

Stress Test
This involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike to check the heart’s performance under exertion.

Vascular Studies
This non-invasive procedure uses ultrasonic sound waves to assess the blood flow in the arteries and veins.

24-Hour Holter Set and Scan
This lightweight, portable device continuously records the heart’s rhythms for 24 hours as the patient goes about his regular daily activities.

For Osteoporosis: Bone Density Scan
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak to the point where even a minor fall can cause a fracture. A bone density test checks the amount of calcium and other minerals
in the bone. 

Women have a much higher risk for the disease, accounting for about 80% of the cases. As a result, almost all women who are 65 and older should be tested. Women under the age of 65 should be tested if they have a 10-year fracture risk that is equal to or greater than a 65-year-old woman who has no additional risk. It’s extremely important to have a bone density test because osteoporosis has no symptoms.

For Breast Cancer: Mammography
The American Cancer Society recently announced new mammography screening guidelines for women with an average risk for breast cancer.

  • Women ages 40-44: An annual mammogram is optional.
  • Women ages 45-54: A mammogram every year.
  • Women ages 55 and older: A mammogram every two years or every year if they choose.

Women who have a high risk for breast cancer should have both an MRI and a mammogram. Talk to your personal physician for more information.

For Diabetes: Blood Sugar Test
A simple blood test can determine if you have diabetes, a disease that affects 26 million Americans.