Life Saving Medical Tests

1. Heart Health Test – Get this test done to ensure that you are not at risk for heart disease. You can start yearly check ups as early as 20 years of age but it is a must if you are 45 years old or older, you have a family history of heart disease including high blood pressure, or if you smoke. In this routine exam your doctor will check your blood pressure, and if it is higher than 130/90, you may be developing hypertension. Your doctor will listen to your heart for murmurs or irregular heartbeats and in case of abnormalities, order a stress test and an electrocardiogram to evaluate for heart disease.

2. Cholesterol Test – Lipid profiling (checking cholesterol levels in your body) is another test for detecting heart disease risk. The test measures ‘bad’ LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and triglycerides. If your total cholesterol is over 200, your HDL is less than 40, or your LDL is over 130, you are at risk for heart disease. In that case, your doctor may also test your apoB levels to measure fat particles in the blood. Elevated cholesterol levels are also high risk for gall bladder disease. Start the tests when you are 20 and if the results are negative, get checked again after 5 years. If you have a family history of heart disease, get the tests done yearly.

3. Diabetes – Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test is a blood test generally done to check your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates that you have diabetes. The doctor may further order random blood sugar test or fasting blood sugar test. A reading of 200 mg/dL or higher for random blood sugar test and a reading of 126 mg/dL or higher for fasting blood sugar test indicates diabetes.

Get tested for diabetes if you are older than 45 years, you have a BMI of 25 or higher, you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, have heart disease yourself or family history of diabetes. You may also need to get tested for diabetes if you delivered a 9 pound or heavier baby, or had gestational diabetes or you have a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

4. Bone Mineral Density Test – You need to do this orthopedic test to find out if you are at risk for osteoporosis, especially if you are a woman. Women can lose up to 30 percent of their bone mass within 5 to 7 years following menopause. So get tested at menopause. Men can do the test at the age of 60 or when their physician advises it.

Currently the most widely used technique for measuring bone mass is DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry). The person lies on a flat padded table and remains motionless while the “arm” of the instrument passes over the whole body or over selected areas. While the measurement is performed, a beam of low-dose x-rays from below the table passes through the area being measured. The machine converts the information received by the detector into an image of the skeleton and analyzes the quantity of bone contained in the skeleton.

5. Breast Cancer Screening – Mammogram (a type of X-ray) is the screening test for breast cancer. Get a mammogram done every year once you turn forty. It is best to schedule your mammogram right after your period when the breasts are least tender. If the mammogram picks up an abnormality, then you may have to undergo a breast ultrasound or maybe a breast MRI.

6. Cervical Cancer Screening – Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent. The Pap test and HPV (Human Papillomaviruses) testing are the two screening methods to detect cervical changes leading to cervical cancer. If your Pap test results are unclear, your doctor may want to perform an HPV test. The Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old. If you are 30 years old or older, ask your doctor if the HPV test is right for you.

The tests are done during a pelvic exam. Your doctor takes a few cells from your cervix (opening to the womb) and the cells are then checked for cancer. This test takes only a few seconds.

7. Colonoscopy – This diagnostic test is done to detect colorectal cancer even before the symptoms of the disease occur. This disease is curable in more than 90 per cent of cases if detected at very early stage. So get your colonoscopy done if you are 50, and earlier if your parent or sibling had the disease. Doctors recommend getting tested 10 years before they were diagnosed, that is, if your parent or sibling was diagnosed with this cancer at the age of 52, you should get the screening done when you are 42.

During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope which is a long, flexible instrument about half an inch in diameter is used to view the lining of the colon. The colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the large intestine. If necessary, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (a biopsy) and polyps can be identified and entirely removed. The procedure typically lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

8. Oral Cancer Screening – Unfortunately there is no standard screening procedure for this cancer. This is because most oral cancers have already spread to lymph nodes or other areas by the time they are found. Your dentist or doctor will screen to rule out oral cancer during regular dental check up. They may examine for lesions and abnormal white or red patches in your mouth. They may also use additional tests if required to identify areas of abnormal cells in your mouth. This is why it is important that you don’t miss out on your dentist appointment. And if you are heavy on tobacco and / or alcohol, then you should certainly consider oral cancer screening.

9. Prostate Cancer Screening – There are two tests to screen prostate cancer:

- Digital Rectal Exam where the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for any lumps or other abnormalities

- Prostate specific antigen test (PSA) to measure the level of PSA (a protein produced by the prostate gland) in the blood.

Most doctors consider PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL or lower to be normal. Higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely you have a prostate problem. However, factors such as age and race, certain medical procedures or medications, an enlarged prostate and prostate infection, can affect the PSA levels, so your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results.

Begin PSA screening at the age of 50, but you need to start earlier (40 to 45 years of age) if your father or brother had prostate cancer.

10. Eye Tests – An eye test can pick up early signs of conditions including diabetes and glaucoma. Have your eye tested regularly by the age of 40 and every two years hence forth and every 6 to 12 months after the age of 65. Two routine eye tests are tonometry where the inner eye pressure is measured and ophthalmoscopy which examines the shape and colour of the optic nerve. Your ophthalmologist may recommend other tests as well –

•Perimetry to examine the complete field of vision,

•Gonioscopy to check the angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea, and

•Pachymetry to measure the thickness of the cornea.

•Why wait till its too late for you to do anything? Get the life saving tests done and take control of your life. more  

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