When we’re feeling healthy, it’s easy to put off or avoid medical tests that screen for disease. But postponing or skipping routine screenings and medical exams can have serious consequences for our health.
Yes, you probably think, “What if they find something wrong?” or “Nothing hurts, I shouldn’t go.” Preventative care is of the utmost importance, especially among Latinos. In order to catch health issues and even bigger diseases early, getting check ups when you’re supposed to could save your life.
The following illustrate the three types of medical tests you may receive when going to a doctor’s appointment:
- A routine test you get at every checkup, like a cholesterol test
- A regularly scheduled screening/preventive test you get less frequently, but need to keep on top of if you’re in the population that it’s recommended for, like a mammogram
- A secondary test that you probably won’t receive unless you’ve already had another test that indicates you should get it, like a treadmill stress test
If you’re spending the time and effort to visit the doctor and have tests such as these done, you want to get a return on that investment in your health. That’s why getting medical screenings and exams is just a first step, not the last. You also need to:
1. Take action based on the test results. If your results suggest a health problem or are inconclusive, you need to discuss them with your doctor. You should find out what they might mean to you and the actions you should take. If the results are normal, that may be good news. However, you’ll still need to talk with your doctors to make sure you have a health plan in place that will keep your test results – and your health – in good shape.
Ask questions and if you are unsure of something, ask for it to be clarified. Every doctor has the knowledge and the know-how to explain very technical situations in ways for you to understand.
2. Monitor your health between doctor’s visits. There are a number of new technologies available that allow you to track your own health, from home blood pressure and blood sugar testing devices to apps and gadgets that can help you track your calories or the number of steps you take in a day. It’s a wonderful new world of opportunities to be more informed about your health, take charge of your behaviors, and change them if you want or need to. That said, don’t forget to let your doctor know what you’re doing and be sure to discuss any abnormal readings or changes.
If you have an issue, call the doctor. You don’t always have to set up an appointment for some guidance or consultation. Give them a call or send them an email expressing your concerns. They’ll understand and get back to you.
3. Work with your health care team. The most important thing is for you, the patient and health care consumer, to be engaged. You have a health care team and the central player is YOU. Ask your doctor or nurse what tests you’re getting and what they mean, follow up and make sure you get the results, and then ask all the questions you need to ask.
At times, we are afraid or just take what the doctor’s say and leave the room confused. Nurses, doctors and even pharmacists are very helpful resources to help keep your health on track.