Have you ever taken time to go for a simple routine health check-up? Or are you the type of person who waits until you are completely frail to rush to the doctor?
In this era when lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other infections have become too common, experts say going for those simple routine health checks could just save your life and avert any more damage to your body.
Periodic health examinations are often taken for granted, especially in developing countries where people only visit hospitals when they suffer from some illness.
However, the truth is that regular health checkups can help to identify the risk factors for common as well as rare diseases, both acute and chronic.
While many would rather be in the dark and deal with a problem once its knocks, others find it difficult to reserve time from their busy schedules to have a date with their doctor. Well, if you fall into this category, you have all the reasons to worry.
Lydia Nantalel, an accountant, appreciates the value of going for routine HIV testing. However, when it comes to other ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure among others, she does not test because according to her its not part of her culture.
“I go for HIV testing periodically and whenever I come across those services because I know I have nothing to fear,” says Nantalel. “However, when it comes to other ailments I don’t test because it is not in my ancestral bloodline.”
“What I know is that there are more ways of being infected with HIV than the obvious which is through sexual intercourse with an infected person,” she says.
Brian Kimathi, a banker, admits that he does not go for health tests regularly. However, after about two years he goes for a complete health scan.
“I only go for specific tests when there is a medical issue that needs to be looked into. I also don’t like these health check-ups that are offered freely. I don’t trust them. That’s just me. I prefer going to the doctor and tell him what I would like to be examined on,” says Kimathi.
Getting examined periodically can help detect diseases that could be asymptomatic in the initial stages. Thus, diseases like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease can be diagnosed earlier and treated better if only a person visits his doctor at regular intervals.
Another advantage of such an exercise is that the doctor will be able to advise the patient with regard to the prevention of the diseases they are at risk of developing due to their complete medical history.
There is no standardized procedure for the annual health exam. Some doctors limit themselves to a brief interview and a once-over with the stethoscope. Others add on some useful, or at least arguably useful, preventive health procedures like mammograms, cholesterol checks, and prostate-specific antigen tests.
Gregory Lumbasi, a Clinical Officer argues that a stitch in time saves nine, but the orientation and change to motivate and encourage individuals to go for health tests even when they are not sick has to start right from the individual level to the household level and then to the society level.
“People perceive the health system as a giver of bad news. Many tend to feel that when they go for a routine check-up, their lives will even become worse, perhaps with the bad news they may receive,” says Lumbasi.
“From there, their condition may even start to worsen because they become stressed. They think of how they may have contracted such a disease and why them. They ask themselves in case they die what will happen to their children, property among other questions, ”he adds.
The doctor admits that going for routine health check-ups is not as simple as it may sound.
“That fear of the unknown is very genuine. You don’t want to discover something that could completely change your life. It is very terrifying. Every individual tries to assume that their bodies are functioning well and once they are told otherwise, it is not easy for them to accept hence the reason why many would rather not go for the tests.”
He further points out that many people cannot afford to go to a hospital just for a routine health check-up.
Doctors recommend that women, especially, should set aside time and visit a healthcare facility to undergo a series of tests, which can be life-saving.
For a number of women, going for monthly or annual health tests may sound as one of the last things they may want to opt for, especially with the high cost of healthcare. It may also seem tedious to undergo these tests every year, but as medics say, prevention is not only better than cure, it is also cheaper!
Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help discover problems early, when chances for treatment are better.
People who go for annual checkups typically report symptoms that they would have otherwise ignored. In some cases, that’s a good thing—some patients minimize their symptoms and ignore the warning signs of serious illness. Most of the time, however, it forces the physician to investigate and treat a problem that would have gone away on its own.
There’s one largely unmeasurable argument in favour of the annual check-ups; they build relationships between doctor and patient, and open lines of communication are important in medicine. That’s a valid point, but that benefit has to be weighed against the costs.