We are told our bodies are like temples, but perhaps a better analogy is a car. In order to keep them operating at peak performance, regular visits to the mechanic are important. For seniors, a check-up with the doctor or specialist could not only keep us moving, but it could save our life. Here are a few tests to consider enquiring about.
Examining your colon is easily done in a bowel screening or colonoscopy. After fasting and taking a reparation to cleanse your bowels, a specialist will use a camera to look for cancerous polyps. For those over the age of 50, Bowel Cancer Australia recommends getting this test – or using a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) – done every two to five years, though individuals with previously benign polyps and/or a history of colon cancer will need to do so more frequently. As part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, by the year 2020, all eligible Australians aged between 50 and 74 will be sent a free bowel screening test – called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) – every two years.
We may come from a sunburnt country, but that doesn’t mean our health and skin should suffer. It is important to be aware of how much UV radiation our skin is exposed to, however the sun from our youth can still affect us years down the line. Always apply sunscreen before leaving the house, even if it is only for a short walk with the dog or to the postbox. Check your skin and moles every three months and report any new markings or skin changes. Of course, those at risk should also have a trained doctor do a complete skin check at least once a year. By visiting your GP, you are more likely to catch an unnatural growth early – even one that looks harmless – and stop it from becoming a major health hazard.
Mammogram and Breast Screening
Another important check-up for women involves having a mammogram or breast screening. Early detection is key to successful treatment. BreastScreen Victoria recommends women aged between 50 to 74 should be screened every two years to ensure early detection and an increased success rate; however, this can be amended to annual checks from the age of 40.
Prostate Cancer Screening
There are two main ways to screen for prostate cancer. The first is a blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The other option is a digital rectal exam, which, while being more invasive, has a higher rate of detecting abnormalities.
Australian Prostate Cancer Research Society recommends annual screening, beginning at 50 years of age, with those at risk urged to meet more regularly with their doctor.
From December 2017, pap smears were replaced by cervical screening tests in Australia. With more effective results, these tests only need to be conducted every five years from ages 25 to 74. The test feels the same as a regular pap smear, but can also detect the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Among these tests are quick ones that can be conducted in your GP office. Regularly check your blood pressure, monitor your weight, keep up to date with any vaccinations, and don’t put off a hearing and eyesight test.