Testing an important part of care

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— Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles can make it tough to get to the doctor for help with a cold or an injury. It can be even tougher to make time for routine screenings and shots that help prevent illness.

But, those routine tests are vitally important, said Dr. Jim Dudley, a physician with Steamboat Medical Group.

"There are certainly a whole lot of diseases where, the earlier you find them, the easier they are to treat," Dudley said. "Screenings are set up to find things before a person has symptoms so you can treat it."

One of the more difficult steps in screenings, Dudley said, is to sort through the various lists put out by different groups describing when different tests should be done.

For example, cancer research groups are more likely to suggest more cancer screenings, he said, while governmental groups could have a screening schedule with the least financial impact.

The best bet, he said, is to sit down with a doctor and discuss what sort of screening schedule is best. That way, if patients have certain diseases in their family history, doctors can recommend more stringent tests for those diseases.

"In reality all of them are very good," Dudley said about the different screening schedules.

Dudley suggests that people find schedules online or in other medical resources and bring them to their doctors to discuss.

"I love it when people come in with a list and say, 'This is what it says I should have, what do you think,'" Dudley said. "It gives you nice a starting point."

Here's a list of screening tests the Mayo Clinic suggests, and that Dudley said is a good first step.

n Blood pressure reading: By measuring the amount of pressure produced by someone's heart pumping blood, doctors can tell whether a person has hypertension, or high blood pressure. Men and women should have blood pressure read initially at age 20 and then at least every two years.

n Cholesterol test: With a sample of blood, doctors can measure how much of each type of cholesterol that a person has. It's important that both men and women have their levels checked every five years after the age of 20.

n Complete physical: Adults should have regular physical exams to help doctors detect illnesses and other conditions before symptoms develop and s reduce the risk of developing some diseases.

n Colorectal cancer screening: Various tests such as a fecal occult blood test, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colon X-ray and a colonoscopy can be done to detect colon cancer before symptoms occur. People with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, or people who are 50 or older, have a family history of colorectal cancer or ademonmatous polyps, or who have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, should have these screenings done periodically.

n Dental checkup: Adults should have yearly dental checkups to detect tooth decay, oral cancer and any other problems such as grinding one's teeth.

n Eye examination: Adults should have regular eye examinations to determine whether they need glasses and to identify vision problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts. These exams are recommended every four to five years.

n Electrocardiogram: To identify heart injury or irregular rhythms, doctors can record electrical impulses from a patient's heart using electrodes. This test is recommended by age 40 and as needed thereafter.

n Mammogram: To detect breast lumps that are too small to detect with physical examination and that can be a sign of early-stage breast cancer. Women should have the X-ray done every one to two years after age 40, and then annually after age 50.

n Pap test: To detect cancer and precancer in the cervix, women should have a Pap test done annually from ages 21 to 29 and every two to three years from ages 30 to 69.

n Prostrate cancer screening: Through a physical examination and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, doctors can tell whether a man might have prostate cancer. Men 50 and older should have these tests done annually.

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