5 Medical appointments you shouldn’t miss

We’ve all missed a checkup or screening here and there. In fact, 65% of American adults have missed at least 1 key cancer screening.  But there are some medical appointments you shouldn’t miss.

Nurse greeting patient in medical office waiting room
Nurse greeting patient in medical office waiting room

We’ve all missed a checkup or screening here and there. In fact, 65% of American adults have missed at least 1 key cancer screening.      

But it’s important to keep up with screenings and appointments to stay healthy, says Michael Hochman, MD. Dr. Hochman is an internist in Los Angeles and host of the Healthy Skeptic podcast. Why? Research shows that people who get regular health screenings have a longer life span than those who don’t.   

So which appointments belong on the “don’t miss” list?  Here are 5 to keep on your calendar.   

Cancer screenings   

The earlier you catch cancer, the easier it can be to treat. Here are 2 of the most important cancer screenings.   

  • Colorectal cancer screening. Experts advise all people get screened for colon cancer starting at age 45 and through to age 75. There are many types of colon cancer tests.  
    The main one is called a colonoscopy. With this test, a thin lighted tube is placed in your rectum. Your doctor uses the tube to look for polyps. Polyps can lead to cancer. They can be removed during the colonoscopy. This test is done every 10 years.    
    Another option is an at-home stool test. It looks for blood in stool that could point to cancer. This test should be done every year, says Dr. Hochman.   
    Talk to your doctor about these and other test options. They can help you decide what makes sense for you. 
  • Breast cancer screening: This screening is called a mammogram. It’s an X-ray of the breast. The U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce now advises starting at age 40. After that, women should get one every 2 years until age 75. 

Annual checkup    

“[Yearly checkups] allow us time to talk about how lifestyle steps like diet and exercise can help you feel your best and help prevent and treat disease,” says Dr. Hochman. During this visit, your doctor may also:   

  • Measure your height, weight, and blood pressure.    
  • Ask about your medical and family health history.    
  • Review any drugs you’re taking.   
  • Share health advice. They may suggest nutrition counseling. Or they may offer an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle. They can also help you cut back on alcohol or quit smoking if needed.   
  • Make sure you’re up to date on your flu shots and other key vaccines.   
  • Talk about any tests you may be due for.

Prenatal visits    

Baby on the way? You’ll have around 15 visits with your doctor during a healthy pregnancy. The visits are usually monthly at first. As you get closer to your due date, you’ll see your doctor more often.   

All these visits are important. They help your doctor make sure you and your baby are healthy. At each visit, your doctor will:  

  • Check your blood pressure, weight, and urine.  
  • Do a pelvic exam.  
  • Measure your belly bump. This helps track your baby’s growth.   

You’ll also have a few extra tests. They may include:  

  • Bloodwork to test for genetic conditions like Down syndrome.  
  • Screenings to look for birth defects like spina bifida.  
  • A few ultrasounds. These are imaging tests. They help track your baby’s health and growth.  
  • A screening for gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy). This screening happens between weeks 24 and 28.   

Chronic condition check-ins    

About 60% of American adults have at least one chronic, or long-term, condition. And 40% have at least 2. Common ones include:   

  • Arthritis.  
  • Asthma.   
  • Diabetes.   
  • High blood pressure.    

The key to keeping them under control? Regular check-ins with your primary care provider.  

“We don’t always have time to get into a detailed discussion during an annual visit,” says Dr. Hochman. “We want to see you more frequently to make sure your treatment plan is working.”   

Dental check-ups   

Your oral health is key to your overall well-being. At each check-up, your dentist will:   

  • Clean your teeth.  
  • Check your teeth, gums, and mouth.  
  • Ask about your total health.  
  • Suggest any needed treatments.   

Most people need to see their dentist every 6 months. Some may need visits more often. Others can wait longer. Talk to your dentist about what’s right for you. 

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