Health screenings for your age
Posted on 1 January 2020
Your annual health check means getting your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked. Additional age-appropriate screening tests can mean early detection of any health problems.
20s onwards: SKIN CHECK – men & women
Visit your GP or dermatologist regularly for a ‘mole patrol’ to check for the beginnings of skin cancer or skin changes caused by sun exposure.
20s onwards: DENTAL CHECK-UPS – men & women
Looking after your teeth doesn’t just mean a healthy smile. By scheduling regular check-ups, you can increase the chances that any potentially cancerous or precancerous lesions in your mouth will be caught early and successfully treated.
20s: PAP SMEAR – women
A Pap smear tests cells from your cervix for signs of irregularities. As cervical cancer is usually slow to develop, early detection can mean effective treatment. Have your first annual Pap smear as soon as you become sexually active, says Dr Annalien Greeff, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Hermanus.
30s: MAMMOGRAM – women
This test uses radiology to scan the breast for irregular tissue and is effective at detecting early signs of cancer. Mammogram results are compared to those from previous years to note any changes. Dr Greeff recommends that women with any history of breast cancer start screenings at age 30, while those with no history can start having annual mammograms from age 40. Thermal imaging, or thermography, is another non-invasive way of detecting irregular breast tissue.
30s: EYE TESTS – men & women
Getting your eyes tested annually may mean early detection of a serious illness or health issue before any obvious physical symptoms exist.
40s: PSA TEST – men
One way to screen for prostate cancer is by means of a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which measures the level of a protein (PSA) produced by the prostate gland. PSA screening should begin at the age of 50, but if your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you should undergo screening from the age of 40. A digital exam is also required.
50s: COLONOSCOPY – men & women
“If you are healthy, you should have your first colonoscopy at age 50,” says Dr Greeff. However, if you have any complaints such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits, you may need a colonoscopy at a younger age. The schedule of follow-up scopes will depend on initial results.
NOTE: If you have pre-existing conditions you may need further medical testing. “If you are diabetic, or have high cholesterol, you should go for an ECG at least once a year,” says Dr Marinda Opt Hof, a GP at Mediclinic Welkom. “It’s worth getting X-rays too, as your heart could get enlarged and you wouldn’t even know it. Patients with hypertension, high cholesterol or high blood sugar should also get an ECG once a year.”