Physician with stethoscope on patient's arm with blood pressure cuff

Seven Life-Saving Health Screenings

By Michael Galvan | 04/14/2016

When symptoms appear, it’s often too late. There are a variety of illnesses that quietly spread for years before they start to show themselves. Many of these conditions become aggressive in their later stages and are extremely difficult to treat. One of the easiest ways to keep from becoming subject to  one of these debilitating diseases is to get early screenings.

Recommended screenings are determined based on age, sex, heredity, and other factors. This process helps to uncover some of the most common unsuspected threats to your health. Here are some of the most important and potentially lifesaving screenings.

1. Blood Pressure Screening

Blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps.  Your blood pressure is a ratio of two numbers, systolic and diastolic readings. Systolic is the top number and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pumps blood from the heart  to the rest of your body. The diastolic is the bottom number, and measures the pressure when the heart is filling with blood. The American Heart Association  recommends that your blood pressure be less than 120/80 and that you get it tested at least every two years.

2. Colon Cancer Screening

Both men and women should be tested for colon cancer.  Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of death by cancer in the United States. [1] The CDC recommends regular screenings for people aged 50 years or older.

3. Lung Cancer Screening

If you have a history of smoking, you should consider a yearly low-dose CT scan after the age of 55. This will help detect the early formation of lung cancer. 

4. Testicular Cancer Screening (Men)

Most cases of testicular cancer appear in men between the ages of 15 to 35.[2] Luckily testicular cancer is fairly rare and highly treatable. If you have a family history of testicular cancer, abnormal development of the testes, or are Caucasian, you may be at higher risk.  Doctors will look for testicular cancer during most checkups.

5. Prostate Cancer Screening (Men)

The prostate is a gland found only in males that sits below the bladder. It grows over time and is the second leading cause of cancer among men.[3]

6. Breast Cancer Screening (Generally Women)

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. [4] It is estimated that women born today have about a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives. [5] Due to increases in awareness, funding, and improved treatment, survival rates have continued to improve. There are three common types of screenings: mammograms, clinical breast exams, breast self-exams. Clinical exams are conducted by a doctor or nurse who palpates the breast tissue to find abnormal lumps, and self-exams are when a woman checks her own breasts for changes. Mammograms are a specialized form of medical imaging which allows physicians to see breast tissue, and are used to check for abnormal tissue which might not be palpable. -There are varying recommendations about when and how often to screen for breast cancer using mammography.  It is best to discuss when to start the screening and how often to do so with your personal physician. The US Preventative Services Task Force has recommended that women should have biennial screenings between 50-74 years of age.

7. Cervical Cancer Screening (Women)

The cells lining the cervix can become cancerous. Pap smears test for pre-cancerous cells. It is possible to detect many cervical cancers in their early stages with regular screenings after age 21.

Scheduled screenings from your doctor could help you detect early forms of cancer and illness. In many cases, early action can prevent their spread. Ask your physician about what screenings they recommend for you.