The concept of an annual health check isn’t new. It is an opportunity to update all the routine health screening tests, and assess any new symptoms. It also serves as an opportunity for you and your doctor to put together a health plan for the coming year. It is a ritual practiced by many. But is an annual health check really worthwhile?
Let’s look at what gets done during an annual medical review. The immediate thing is to assess your prevailing health, and evaluate any new health concerns that you may have noticed. You then get a detailed physical medical exam done. Your doctor will then order a barrage of tests, some labelled as routine while others will be categorized as recommended screening tests for chronic illnesses like cancer. You will subsequently get a detailed report, hopefully giving you a clean bill of health. But other times, you will end up with recommendations for additional testing.
Is it all really worthwhile? The majority of individuals participating in this annualized ritual are the healthy folk. The consultation element of an annual review rarely yields anything. There may be a tendency to focus on mundane and insignificant symptoms. A physical medical exam in an otherwise healthy person is mostly a waste of time. Routine tests? More time, effort and money wasted. No one should ever have any tests as a routine, there should always be an objective reason for any and every test ordered.
Screening tests for chronic diseases are worth your time. We are talking of screening for cancer and other conditions like infectious and cardio-metabolic diseases. Screening intervals for certain cancers have ample scientific evidence confirming benefits. But the recommended screening intervals hardly mandate annual testing in many cases. For some cancers, an individualized approach is recommended, rather than a routine annual ritual. Many cancers occur randomly, and don’t render themselves to an easily identifiable screening test. Regardless, your annual review will likely include additional cancer screening tests that are mostly a waste of time.
Don’t get me wrong, aregular review of your health is worthwhile. But it shouldn’t be looked at as a tick-box routine. Such a review must be individualized to your specific circumstances that include age, disease-risk profiles and a host of other factors. Your review doesn’t have to fit into a pre-determined and arbitrary calendar date. After all the occurrence of disease isn’t a binary event, but rather a continuum. Being aware of your overall health, adhering to recommended disease screening intervals, and having odd symptoms checked out pronto is more important than a single annual review.
Those already sold onto annual medical reviews don’t need to stop. Others do not need to start the ritual either. But critically re-evaluate your health-seeking habits, and weed out what isn’t worth your efforts.
Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.firstname.lastname@example.orgTake a fertility test today