The annual physical came under fire recently when a medical study suggested it was no longer necessary. The news, combined with recent changes in cancer screening guidelines, left many people confused. How often should you see your doctor for checkups to stay healthy?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, says Heidi Doyle, PA-C, a physician assistant with North Hills Internal Medicine, a Duke Primary Care clinic.
“Regular check-ups are important to maintain a relationship with your doctor and to receive individualized counseling based on your family health history and your lifestyle.”
Age and disease risk are the primary factors influencing when to get a physical, says Doyle. With this in mind, here’s what you need to know:
- If you’re under 30 and healthy – don’t smoke, no disease risk factors (including being overweight) and don’t take prescription medications - get a check-up every two to three years. If you’re a woman and sexually active, get a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer starting at age 21 and discuss how often you should screen with your provider.
- Ages 30-40, healthy individuals should get a physical every other year. Baseline mammograms are now recommended for women once they turn 40, and should be repeated every one to two years.
- Annual physicals start around age 50. That’s also when men and women should undergo colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. Repeat every 10 years unless there is a family history of colon cancer, colon polyps, or the test results are abnormal.
For more information about regular physicals and screenings, read the full post at DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health information every Tuesday.