Regular health check ups: Yay or Nay

From another thread:

I didn’t want to hijack the thread, but this interests me. Isn’t it better to have a checkup and find out early that your cholesterol is through the roof? Or find out glucose levels are climbing before it turns into full-blown diabetes? Or that kidney function is hinky though there’s still no severe damage? One of those was caught in my latest physical, and the docs are working on it. I’m glad it was the case.

What do you think?

Yay = Yippee
Yea = Approval

I’ve had maybe 2 check-ups since leaving school ( a long time ago ); it wouldn’t occur to me to bother a doctor * unless there was something seriously and obviously wrong. I broke my hand in a fall last year, and since there was no resetting needed and bones mostly mend in 6 weeks I didn’t seek medical help since there was nothing they could do.

And I am not a fan of taking drugs.

  • And all this stuff is utterly free in my country.

Who am I to argue with Jesus?

I think that most people don’t need an annual check up, but it wouldn’t hurt to get looked at every so often. Going 20 years without checking the vital fluids is probably not a good idea.

A brief jaunt through Google Scholar would suggest that the official recommendation is against yearly screening. On the other hand, it does suggest some regular screenings, like yearly dental checkups, yearly eye checks for those over 60, occasional breast examinations, a one time skin check, etc. Between it all, it seems like you’re going to have something every year, though you might only see a primary care physician at an irregular schedule every few years.

I imagine that it’s one of those things where, if there were no such thing as money or resource limitations in the world, it would certainly be better to have a regular checkup. They’re completely useless right up to the point that one saves your life, and that’s sort of a big deal to the individual. So if money is no object, it might make sense to treat the medical establishment in this way.

But in a real world, where things cost money and doctors have a limited amount of time in the day, at a population-wide scale, it’s a waste of resources.

I suspect that, within the next five years, we’ll start getting computerized checkups. I know that as a kid, I once saw a machine in the supermarket that would take your blood pressure and give you a diagnostic. I could see something like that catching on. If we had a centralized system tracking our status, a device like this would be great as it would both perform all the dumb, administrative tasks of a physical and be able to remind us that when we are due to go see a real human.

So, to a large extent, I suspect that the point is moot. Pretty soon, it’s going to correct itself.

Nah, I don’t bother going to the doctor unless there’s something wrong. If you’re concerned about blood pressure or blood sugar, there are OTC devices you can purchase where you can monitor those things yourself quickly and as often as you like. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were other testing devices you could use for other things.

The last time I had a physical was about 5 or 6 years ago, and only because my employer was offering a small discount on insurance if you participated in their wellness program (not on your life!) or received a physical from your physician.

The only things I get regularly are flu shots and any other vaccinations that are needed. Don’t need a doctor for a flu shot. Walk into a pharmacy and give them your insurance card. Although I have insurance, I’ll just pay for it myself if they happen to be doing flu shots and I didn’t bring my card.

Lots of so-called preventative care seems rather gimmicky for healthy adults. I can’t imagine that all of this extra monitoring results in a different verdict on people’s health, or any long term savings.

Here’s a nice website aimed at the consumer, which points out when screening tests are generally recommended, and for whom: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Tools/ConsumerInfo/Index/information-for-consumers

Check it out. See if you’re part of an at-risk group for whom focused screening tests ought to be done regularly. Just be aware, there’s 75 topics. Their recommendations are supported by the science, though. Which is critical, IMHO.

But as a rule, medicine has moved away from the ‘annual physical’ visit for normal risk folks.

QFT, thank you. :wink:

Getting check-ups for no reason has not been shown to improve patient outcomes. Quite the reverse. http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7191
It increases the number of conditions diagnosed, but it doesn’t improve health and may have adverse health consequences due to treatment of the conditions diagnosed.
As mentioned above, check the USPSTF website to see what is currently recommended for you. Most people are fine checking their blood pressure themselves every 5 years or so.

I should probably see a doctor more often than I do, but…no. I check my blood sugar every so often when I get a new batch of test strips, since I can never find my testing solution, and it’s always fine since I started taking cinnamon daily. I check my blood pressure periodically when I’m teaching someone how to use a blood pressure cuff. It’s good enough. I already know I’m obese and should fix that, but since nothing short of surgery can be done by the doctor about that, I don’t see the point of going to the doctor to hear that I should lose weight.

I will get a lipid panel soon, as it’s been almost two years since I’ve been on the stuff I’m taking for that (not prescription) and I’d like to see if it’s had an impact. I won’t bother a doctor with that, though, because I can get it done by an independent lab for less than my copay. If the numbers are still sucky, then I’ll make an appointment and see what the next step is.

What I really do need to do is get in to see a dermatologist to give my moles a look see. To do that, I have to get a referral from my primary care doctor (who I’ve never met) and that’s such a drag. But dermatology is freaking hard to DIY, and I do have a lot of moles that could be something, could be nothing. That is the one area I do really need to take care of.

I will be getting my colonoscopies on schedule when I’m old enough.

Yes, exactly. I’m not an expert on everything under the sun, medicine-wise, but as far as I know the idea that “catching something early” leads to better outcomes has only been proven for three tests: screening for colorectal cancer (the method of choice is unclear, but most likely it’s a colonoscopy at age 50 and then age 65), screening for cervical cancer (Pap smears every three years, which will soon be abandoned due the HPV vaccine), and self-checks for signs of melanoma.
Everything else? No benefit. Often significant harms- screening for prostate cancer is a good example, and screening for breast cancer may soon transition into this category as well (it’s controversial right now).
Many people don’t understand the concepts of overdiagnosis and overtreatment which together cause tremendous harm to the population.

Brain fart. Condition not caught in latest physical. :slight_smile:

I made this post last year in a debate about mammograms.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=18815739&postcount=64

TL;DR - for every 1 life saved from mammograms, 1-3 lives are lost due to consequences of overtreatment. Lots of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer that would never kill them end up developing heart disease or cancer as a side effect of treatment. If you give X women mammograms, you may save 5 lives from cancer but you will also kill 5-15 women from too much medical care. It is a wash.

That doesn’t even include the number maimed or psychologically harmed by overtreatment.

I’m not going to argue with you about mammograms. The evidence is against them. I’m not planning to have any.

I’ve had high cholesterol and triglycerides. I typically get at least that tested annually. I had a physical last week because I got new insurance and they required it. My last physical was two years ago, mostly for the same reason.

There’s another issue besides what other posters have mentioned. Some of the guidelines really aren’t worth much.

To take your cholesterol example–most people don’t know it, but just because your levels are “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot.

http://www.bostonheartdiagnostics.com/patients_understanding.php

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668

Based on years and years of above-average-utilization-of-things-medical:

CBC with differential and Basic metabolic Panel every 6 mos for known at-risk perosns; every year for everybody else.

These are auto mated blood test and will show a track record and are the 2 most often used diagnostic tests for those “Hey Doc - I fell sick” cases.

Unless some group of readings are off the chart, there is no need for the MD to even see them.

The above should placate those who insist that simply everybody MUST be screened and those who do not wish to use scarce resources (good MD’s) for B.S. screening.

From that same other thread, JoseB’s reply to the quote in the OP:

He likely wouldn’t have gone to the doctor if he hadn’t been prompted, but since he got prompted and since it had been a while from his last checkup, he decide to take it.

Note that he wasn’t required to go to the doctor or to get the MRI: both were offered and it was JoseB who chose to have them, but there’s no requirement, it’s an offer. I was offered a checkup myself recently and took it because I hadn’t been to the doctor in 3 years and wanted to have one before starting a new exercise program; having it offered meant not having to ask for it myself. In my case, the people involved would have been paid the same with or without checkup (they’re salaried) and the companies involved would have been paid the same with or without checkup (it’s a legally-mandated package deal). In an economy in which doctors charge for crossing a patient in the hallway, mileage will evidently vary.

Being offered a checkup annually: aye. Taking it: I don’t, based on my own medical history and my family’s, but others do. My mother gets checkups a lot more frequently than annually because between mental, physical, self-inflicted, medication-inflicted and other, her medical history used to occupy four whole folders.