Medical tests aren’t just for diagnosing disorders once symptoms appear—they’re also routinely used as an important aspect of preventive health care. People who see their doctor regularly and have routine screenings are more likely to receive an early diagnosis if they develop a medical condition, and this contributes to better outcomes and a longer lifespan.
Routine screenings also allow physicians to compare test results over time, increasing the chances that a potential problem can be prevented by interventions like medications or lifestyle changes. For most adults, depending on age, doctors will recommend a screening schedule that includes regular physical exams, body mass index (BMI), skin checks, cholesterol and blood pressure screening, eye exams, immunizations and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.
The type of routine screenings you may need changes as you age, and will depend on your personal and family medical history, as well as whether you have risk factors for certain diseases. For example, most young adults don’t need a regular colonoscopy, but if there’s a family history of polyps or colon cancer, doctors may recommend that test become a regular part of your health care. Having a family history may also make you a good candidate for genetic testing, which can identify whether you are at high risk for developing certain diseases.
While many routine screenings are important no matter who you are, there are additional tests specific to men’s health (like PSA screenings for prostate cancer) or women’s health (mammograms or pap smears) that should also become a regular part of preventive health care. Talk to your doctor about what tests are right for you.