Annual Checkup Is Useful for Finding Disease

By Komaroff, Anthony | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 31, 2014 | Go to article overview

Annual Checkup Is Useful for Finding Disease


Komaroff, Anthony, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 73 and in great health. Do I really need to have an annual physical?

DEAR READER: Let's start by defining "great health." I would define it as having no known chronic (ongoing) illnesses. However, most people your age have at least one chronic illness, such as high blood pressure. People with chronic illnesses need to be checked out at least once a year, and usually more often.

Even if they don't have any chronic illnesses, I ask my patients to come in for a checkup every year. That includes asking and answering some questions, a physical examination and some screening tests.

The questions probably are the most important part of an annual checkup. For example, I remember a man in his 50s who had no chronic conditions and exercised every day. He had a healthy diet - he was a vegan. When I asked him if he had been having any bothersome symptoms, he answered "no," but hesitated just briefly before saying it. So I pushed him until he replied: "Well, sometimes I get this tingling sensation in my feet. It comes and goes."

That gave me an idea, and influenced what I did on the physical examination.

I always examine the heart, lungs, abdomen and skin. Even this limited examination is of unproven value. But I've discovered irregular heart rhythms, mild asthma and the occasional skin cancer.

But when a person has a symptom, parts of the physical examination can be extremely valuable. …

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