Understanding The Value Of Acne Treatments

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Health Screening Tests Your Primary Care Physician May Order

Health & Medical Blog

When you see your primary care physician for a routine physical, even if you are healthy at the time, it's important to give your doctor information about your family's medical history. The more information he or she has about diseases or medical conditions for which you are at risk, the better the preventative health care you can receive. Even if you are asymptomatic at the time of your exam, depending on the risk factors you have, your doctor will determine what types of screening tests you may need.


If you are at high risk for colon cancer, your primary care physician may recommend that you have a colonoscopy exam at age 50 or sooner. How often you need to have the test after that depends on how high your risk. The test allows a gastroenterologist to see small growths inside your rectum and colon that could eventually become cancerous. Early detection and treatment prevents the cancer from growing and spreading to other parts of the body before you begin experiencing symptoms.

Known risk factors for colorectal cancer include your age, whether you are overweight, a family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps, or your own history of inflammatory bowel disease or type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle habits, including smoking, heavy alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and a diet high in red meats and saturated fat, can increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Screening Tests for Coronary Heart Disease

Should your primary care physician suspect coronary heart disease following a heart attack or complaints of persistent chest pain, initial screening tests generally include an electrocardiogram (EKG) and exercise cardiac (treadmill) stress test. Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, abnormal cholesterol levels, and cigarette smoking also may prompt your doctor to perform screening tests for coronary heart disease.

If the preliminary tests are not clear about the presence of heart disease, your doctor may order an ultrasound of the heart, which produces images of the heart both at rest and during exercise. Stress echocardiography is a screening test that provides greater accuracy in diagnosing coronary heart disease. Doctors often rely on this test to rule out "false positive" findings of a treadmill stress test.

Liver and Kidney Function Tests

Your primary care physician may order blood tests to measure how well your liver and kidneys are functioning. Elevated levels of certain enzymes in your bloodstream can be a sign of liver damage or disease.

Kidney function tests measure the amount of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine in your bloodstream to be carried to the kidneys where they are eliminated. High blood levels of either may indicate kidney damage.

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease include age, ethnicity and race, family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and exposure to toxic substances. Like kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, and exposure to hazardous chemicals and toxins can increase your risk of liver disease. Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, tattoos and body piercings, and high triglyceride levels.

Thyroid Disease Screening

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism–too much thyroid hormone–include fatigue, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, hand tremors, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, weight loss, and an enlarged thyroid gland. Symptoms of hypothyroidism–too little thyroid hormone–include dry skin, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and memory loss.

Risk factors that increase your risk of thyroid disease include age, family history of thyroid disease or previous thyroid problems of your own, pregnancy, type 1 diabetes, Addison' disease, and radiation to the neck.

If your doctor suspects thyroid disease, he or she may order blood tests that measure the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your bloodstream. In some cases, doctors use diagnostic imaging, such as an ultrasound of the thyroid gland or CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the hypothalamus or pituitary gland to look for abnormalities that may be causing your symptoms.


26 October 2016