Health screening is one of the best ways of discovering health problems at an early and more treatable stage. It gives you an objective assessment of your health status.
Screening are tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. This is important because not all diseases show symptoms, and conditions discovered with health screening may be treated earlier, leading to a higher chance of success and a lower chance of complications, suffering, or even death.
There are illnesses that run in families also. These can be detected early with a chance at prevention.
Every adult needs health screening and frequently. Younger adults, especially those with no past medical history and no significant family history of hereditary illness can do this once every three years to once yearly.
Some conditions that Doctors commonly screen for include:
- Breast cancer and cervical cancer in women
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Colorectal cancer
- Prostate cancer in men
Components of Health Screening
The tests you do is determined by your Doctor.
It depends on your age, your sex, your family history and whether you have risk factors for certain diseases.
After an initial assessment, some tests / investigations will be carried out as needed. There are general tests and gender-specific tests.
Health screening is broadly divided into basic health screening and comprehensive health screening.
Basic Health screening
Basic health screening involves a physical examination by your doctor, bio-physical measurements (height, weight, body mass index, visual acuity, colour vision), blood and urine investigations.
Blood tests usually screen for:
– Blood count
– Sugar levels
– Cholesterol levels
– Kidney function
– Liver function
Screening centres may offer the option of a chest x-ray, which can pick up abnormalities of the lungs, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) which is a screening test for heart diseases.
Comprehensive Health Screening
In comprehensive health screening packages, on top of the above tests (basic), the blood test may be used to screen for more conditions such as:
– Thyroid hormone levels
– Cancer markers
– Sexually transmitted diseases
– Hepatitis A and B screening
– Blood group incompatibility
A Pap smear is usually offered to all women aged 25 – 65 years who have had sexual intercourse. This is used to screen for cervical cancer, and is usually done every 3 years, unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
Bone mineral density (BMD) is a test that uses x-ray to screen for osteoporosis, a condition where the bones are weak and increases the risk of a fracture. It is recommended in all women aged 65 years and above, and in other people with risk factors.
You can speak to your doctor or do the Osteoporosis Self-Assessment Tool for Asians (OSTA) to check your risk of osteoporosis. If your risk is moderate or high, see your doctor to be screened for osteoporosis.
A mammogram and/or ultrasound of the breast are recommended for all women aged 40 and above to screen for breast cancer and other breast conditions. For women between 40 – 49 years of age, it should be done annually.
For women aged 50 years and above, screening every 2 years is recommended.
Other radiological tests that may be offered include:
– ultrasound of the abdomen to screen for conditions of the liver, gall bladder and kidneys
– ultrasound of the pelvis (for women) to screen for conditions of the womb and ovaries
– ultrasound of the thyroid to screen for conditions of the thyroid gland
- You don’t have to be sick before doing a health screening.
- You should speak to your Doctor to see which health screening suits you best as different screening centers offer different packages, some more basic and others more comprehensive.