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Health Screening in Primary Care

Patient health screening identifies what you might be at risk for and takes steps to mitigate those risks.

In this article, we will explore my health screening protocol and how it can help people decrease their health risks.

Identifying Health Risks

A compassionate conversation between me and my patients is at the heart of identifying potential health risks.

Certain lifestyle factors, family history, and where my patient resides are important health risk factors.

What we don’t know can sometimes hurt us, especially if there is something actionable we could have and were willing to undertake.

Health Screening Process

Rather than handing over a giant questionnaire to the patient, my goal is to get through as many questions as possible over several months.

I prioritize the questions based on their criticality. Cancer screening questions take precedence, followed by lifestyle questions and risky behaviors.

Over several months, we populate the spreadsheet and assign risks to various answers. Next, we set out to address the risks together to decrease any potential negative outcomes.

What Health Screening Tests to Get

The common dilemma is what screening test to get for whom. At some point, it can get quite costly, and when the risk is low, in general, it’s best to hold off on any testing.

But I like to make this decision with my patient and not in isolation.

Should we order a coronary CT angiogram, or is the EKG enough? Would the patient benefit from a breast MRI, or will the mammogram suffice?

1. Cancer Screening

It makes sense to work our way through the most common cancers and end with the cancers for which an individual might have a higher predilection.

Many cancers, if caught early, can be curative. Most can only be held at bay once the cells spread. The ability of such cancerous cells to make it into other parts of the body speaks to their resilience and ability to escape the immune system.

  • breast cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • colon cancer
  • melanoma

From a population health point of view, a mammogram is recommended for breast cancer screening. But nothing would bar us from investigating someone’s risk further and utilizing other tests such as ultrasound and MRI.

What matters is an individual’s risk of certain cancers, not the population’s rate. You are an individual and not a statistic.

On the other hand, going overboard with testing will increase the probability of a false positive finding, which only adds anxiety and stress.

2. Lifestyle Variables

Diet and activity levels are effective tools for building bone strength, improving metabolism, and preventing the buildup of certain undesirable chemicals.

A sedentary job such as mine, a physician needs to be addressed by adding frequent activity breaks.

These breaks will help me recover faster and avoid the pitfalls of muscle loss and blood sugar problems in the future.

Diet is a sensitive topic for many. A topic commonly used as a marketing tool, it’s best to approach it slowly and tactfully.

3. Mental Health Screening

Stress and sleep are the common variables determining how well our metabolic system will function. Less sleep and a good coping mechanism for stress make the body more resilient.

If a patient is under high stress levels, their risk of autoimmune diseases increases. Not only that, but cancer and glucose metabolism are also negatively affected, and therefore, addressing these factors takes precedence.

Depression, anxiety, and stress are major risk factors for chronic conditions, from metabolic issues to dementia.

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