I just came from my biennial mammogram. For those who have never experienced one, basically a technician escorts you into a cold room, extends your boob onto a cold platform and squishes it down in between two hard surfaces (think stretching and pinching) to take pictures of the breast tissue. This time they put pink stickers on my nipples for markers. I’m sure I’ve already grossed out my brothers and they’ve stopped reading.
Anyway, yes there is some discomfort but it's short-lived and worth it given the possible alternative.
80% of my core group of friends have either had cancer, or a cancer scare. Thankfully, they all participate in their health, performed self-exams, got screened and hence discovered any abnormal cell growth early enough to be treated and cancer free today. Cancer sucks!
I get it, nobody wants to go to the doctor and be poked and prodded, especially when feeling just fine. Not only can it be time consuming, annoying and even scary, but costly as well. I ask you to consider what an annoyance and expense you’re in for if you avoid screenings and wind up with a life threatening diagnosis? I’ve watched loved ones go through it in gruesome detail and promise you a check up a million times more convenient and fun (yes, fun in comparison).
Regular screenings can discover diseases and conditions early when they are easier to treat. So going when you feel fine is great and now is a perfect time of year to do so!
With the slowness of summer, bright sun, and exposed skin, it’s an ideal opportunity to notice lumps, moles and discolorations. Plus, doctor’s schedules are typically fairly flexible, unlike when deep into fall and everyone trying to squeeze it in prior to insurance premiums renewing and deductibles reset.
The National Institutes of Health and the Friends of the National Library of Medicine suggests the following guidelines:
Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years.
Cholesterol Checks: Women should have their cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45; men every 5 years beginning at 35. If you smoke, have diabetes, or if heart disease runs in your family, start having your cholesterol checked at age 20.
Colorectal Cancer Tests: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you.
Depression: If you've felt "down," sad, or hopeless, and have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things for 2 weeks straight, talk to your doctor about whether he or she can screen you for depression.
Diabetes Tests: Have a test to screen for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Mammograms (Women): Have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40.
Osteoporosis Tests (Women): Have a bone density test at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). If you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested.
Pap Smears (Women): Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years if you have been sexually active or are older than 21.
Prostate Cancer Screening (Men): Talk to your doctor about the possible benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening if you are considering having a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal examination (DRE).
Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Talk to your doctor to see whether you should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, and, for women, also Chlamydia.
NOTE: Most authorities recommend that, after age 50, tests should include an annual fasting blood sugar check for diabetes and also the following for early diagnoses and treatments: regular colonoscopy for cancer of the colon, serum prostatic-specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer, mammography for breast cancer, and enhanced lung CT imaging for lung cancer.
Plus throw in skin, vision and hearing screening.
Now of course, I don't expect you to do all of these at once, or even every year. This link offers recommendations by age and gender.
Prioritize any diseases that run in your family, as you may be predisposed to them. I suggest an annual check up, kind of like a regular detailing of the car or spring-cleaning of the house.
As always, integrate regular exercise and proper nutrition daily to keep those pesky diseases and signs of aging at bay.
So pick up the phone and make that appointment. Right now.
I’m so proud of you for doing so!
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
P.S. There is a lovely nonprofit Self chec that will provide self-exam reminders for you, or a loved one.