Are you getting the health screenings you need?
5 MINUTE READ
Make sure to get ahead of any health conditions before they get the best of you. Here are the screenings and preventive services every adult should consider.
By Dr. Don Liss, Vice President & Chief Medical Officer
For a healthier 2020, make sure to go beyond changes to your diet and exercise. Don’t forget preventive care and health screenings.
Regular, recommended health screenings allow your doctors to check for diseases or other health conditions before you experience any signs and symptoms. These tests can help find problems early on when they could be easier to treat and can even help prevent or delay many chronic medical conditions.
The good news: most of these screenings and preventive services can be administered by a primary care physician, often during a yearly wellness exam and at no cost to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ) members. It’s important to think about preventive care when you're well to avoid preventable conditions later on.
Recommended screenings and preventive services
Below are some of the most important screenings and preventive services for adults, based on recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). Find out if you should receive these services and why they’re important to achieving your best health.
Many of these tests can tell you about your heart health. During February’s American Heart Month, make a special effort to see if you’re at risk for heart disease, which can be prevented in many cases.
1. Blood pressure
Who needs it: Adults age 18 and older who have not already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Why it’s important: High blood pressure is a serious condition that increases a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney and heart failure. Screening – usually done using a blood pressure cuff wrapped around a person’s upper arm – and timely treatment can help prevent these conditions.
Who needs it: Adults ages 40-75 with no history of heart disease or stroke and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. For adults with higher risk, treatment with statin medication is recommended.
Why it’s important: Abnormal levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood can build up inside blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks or strokes.
3. Colorectal Cancer
Who needs it: Adults age 50 to 75. People older than 75 should first talk with their doctors before screening due to potential risks.
Why it’s important: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Evidence shows that several different types of screening tests, including stool tests and colonoscopies, reduce deaths from CRC.
4. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV
Who needs it: All women who are pregnant, and any person ages 15 or older at increased risk, such as those who do not correctly and consistently use a condom, or have multiple sex partners.
Why it’s important: People with STIs can unknowingly pass on the infection to a partner because symptoms aren’t always present. These infections can lead to severe conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, cancer and death. Screening is done through a blood test, with the goal of early detection so STIs can be treated as early as possible.
Who needs it: Any adult ages 18 or older, including women who are pregnant and those who have recently given birth.
Why it’s important: One of the leading causes of disability in adults, depression crosses all ages, races, and social and economic groups. It can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, increasing the risk of suicide. The goal of screening – usually performed with a questionnaire – is to identify the condition early so people can get the treatment they need.
6. Type 2 Diabetes
Who needs it: Adults ages 40-70 who are overweight or obese and do not have symptoms of diabetes.
Why it’s important: Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when people have abnormally high levels of blood sugar, can lead to heart disease and stroke. Millions of people don’t know that they have the disease, and many more have a condition called pre-diabetes, which can develop into Type 2 diabetes if they don’t take action to halt its progress. Simple blood tests can screen for these conditions, so affected people can make lifestyle changes or take necessary medications.
7. Hepatitis B and C
Who needs it: For hepatitis B, any adult at high risk, and pregnant women in their first trimester. For hepatitis C, adults at high risk or those born between 1945 and 1965.
Why it’s important: Both forms of hepatitis are viruses that can damage the liver; they can also be passed through infected blood and bodily fluids, and with hepatitis B, from mother to baby at birth. If blood tests reveal the presence of disease-fighting proteins that react to each virus, treatment is possible with antiviral medicines. For hepatitis B, a vaccine is very effective at preventing the disease before it’s contracted.
8. Breast Cancer
Who needs it: For women ages 50-74 should receive a mammogram – an X-ray picture of the breast – every two years. Starting at age 40.
Why it’s important: Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S. Early detection can lead to effective treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or hormone treatment.
9. Cervical Cancer
Who needs it: For women ages 21-30, screening should be done by a Pap test every three years. For women ages 30-65 years, screening can be done by a Pap test every three years, a high-risk HPV test every five years, or a Pap test plus a high-risk HPV test every five years.
Why it’s important: In its early stages, cervical cancer causes no symptoms. But if it’s treated at this early stage, cervical cancer or precancer can usually be cured. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
10. Lung Cancer
Who needs it: A low-dose CT scan should be performed on adults ages 55-80 who have a history of heavy smoking, are current smokers or who have quit within the past 15 years.
Why it’s important: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and smoking is the biggest risk factor. The most common type of lung cancer – non-small cell lung cancer – can sometimes be cured if it is found and treated early enough.
11. Adult Immunizations
Who needs them: All adults need a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine and Td or Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. Depending on your health, other vaccines may be recommended by the CDC. See the list here.
Why it’s important: Vaccines can help prevent diseases that cause serious illness and hospitalizations in thousands of adults in the U.S. every year.
Getting the right screenings at the right time
To prepare for your health screenings at your doctor’s visit, gather your family’s medical history and make a list of questions to ask your doctor. At your visit, talk with your doctor about which screenings you need and how often to get them. Ask about the risks and benefits of the screenings, and make sure to get the results from every screening and ask your health care provider to explain them if they are unclear.
If you need to find a primary care doctor – or are looking to change your provider – Horizon BCBSNJ members can always use the Doctor & Hospital Finder tool.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans cover many screening tests at no cost to members. Medicare also fully covers many screenings. Check your Horizon BCBSNJ plan at horizonblue.com to find out what screenings are covered, or you can call Horizon BCBSNJ at 1-800-355-BLUE (2583).
If there’s one resolution to keep this new year, it should be to get ahead of any health problems before they get out of control. Health screenings can help make it possible.