Medical Self Advocacy
Although you may feel healthy, it's really important to routinely get tested or screened for common health conditions. Some tests are specifically for women, some are for men and some are only recommended after a certain age. However, all are important. Screening recommendations may change over time so you should ask your health care provider about appropriate tests taking into account your individual medical history. If you take SGAs, learn more about monitoring your health risks and discussing these with your health care provider.
The Mayo Clinic recommends these common health care screening tests and measures:
Blood pressure measurement
Who needs it: All adults.
How often: Once every two years for those with normal blood pressure.
Why: To detect hypertension.
Comments: More frequent monitoring for those with readings of 130/85 or higher. High blood pressure is common and treatable.
Who needs it: All adults, especially those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, who are overweight or physically inactive, have diabetes or eat a high-fat diet. People who take antipsychotic medications are in a group that requires regular monitoring.
How often: For an average person who is not taking psychiatric medicines, once every five years; more often if total or LDL cholesterol is high, HDL cholesterol is low and/or the person has risk factors such as family history or has a history of antipsychotic medication usage.
Why: Even if your cholesterol is high, you won't experience any symptoms, so there could be no warning signs that a problem exists. High cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease and are treatable.
Comments: Those at high risk for heart disease need medical advice about life-style changes and, possibly, drug therapy if lifestyle does not yield results.
Pap Smear and Pelvic Exam
Who needs it: All women aged 18 and over. Pap smears should be done on all women with a cervix, starting at age 18, or earlier if sexually active. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has slightly different recommendation for screening models.
How often: If an annual test is normal, then once every three years—more often if the woman smokes or has multiple sex partners or other risk factors.
Why: For early detection of cervical cancer.
Comments: Some experts advise that women who have never had an abnormal result can stop being screened after age 65.
Who needs it: All women age 50 and over; those ages 40-49 should discuss risk factors with a doctor.
How often: Annually; medicare reimburses for it.
Why: To screen for breast cancer and to ensure early detection.
Comments: Clinical breast exams are also important—consult your doctor.
Colorectal cancer screening (fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy)
Who needs it: Everyone age 50 and over and generally until age 75; earlier for those at high risk which includes a family history of cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
How often: Occult blood test annually; sigmoidoscopy every five years or colonoscopy every 10 years.
Comments: Other screening tests for colon cancer may be recommended by your physician. Medicare now pays for colonoscopy.
Prostate cancer screening (prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test; and digital rectal exam, or DRE)
Who needs it: African Americans and men with family history, DRE and PSA starting at age 40. For others, DRE, and possibly PSA, starting at age 50. Men should discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening with their physicians.
How often: DRE annually; PSA on professional advice.
Comments: Usefulness of PSA screening for all men remains controversial.
Diabetes screening (fasting blood glucose test)
Who needs it: Everyone age 45 and older; earlier for those at high risk, including people of color, people with a family history or individuals with sustained blood pressure (either treated or untreated) greater than 135/80 mm Hg, and people taking certain SGAs.
How often: Depends on risk factors and should be done prior to starting treatment with an atypical antipsychotic medication.
Comments: African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, people who are obese and those with a strong family history need more frequent screening, starting at age 30. Anyone taking SGAs, especially Clozapine (clozaril) Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Seroquel (quietapine) and resperidol (resperidone), need to be checked regularly. Learn more about guidelines on how often these should be checked.
Thyroid disease screening
Who needs it: People taking lithium need this simple blood test.
How often: As recommended given clinical presentation.
Comments: Routine screening of people who are asymptomatic remains controversial.
Who needs it: Women age 24 and younger, if sexually active.
How often: Annually or more often.
Comments: Men and women of any age who are at risk for STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV) should be tested.
Who needs it: People at high risk including those over age 65, those who are very nearsighted or people who are diabetic. African Americans over age 40 and those with sleep apnea or family history of glaucoma should also be tested.
How often: On professional advice of eye specialist.
Comments: Many eye specialists advise screening all adults every 1-4 years, starting at age 40.
Who needs it: All adults.
How often: Every six months, or on professional advice.
Comments: Should include cleaning and exam for oral cancer.
Influenza vaccine and H1N1
Who needs: Everyone age 50 and over, people with lung or heart disease or cancer and others at high risk.
How often: Annually, in autumn.
Comments: Even healthy younger adults can benefit and should consider getting the shot.
Who needs it: Everyone age 65 and over and others at high risk for complications, including smokers and people with asthma.
How often: At least once.
Comments: Effective against most strains of pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common form of bacterial pneumonia. Lasts at least five to 10 years.
Hepatitis B vaccine
Who needs it: All young adults, as well as adults at high risk. Infants begin receiving a series beginning at the newborn period.
How often: On professional advice.
Comments: All newborns should be vaccinated.
You should discuss other vaccine options with your health care provider, including the chicken pox vaccine, human papillomavirus (HPV), Tetnus/Dipthera/Pertussis booster (Tdap), shingles vaccine, measles and rubella vaccine. For more information on vaccines please visit www.cdc.gov.