Queries About Health Check
Why do I need health check?
- The main purpose of health check is to detect the diseases at an earlier stage, for the better control of diseases and hence decrease risk of complications and reduce mortality in some cases
- The elders may be asymptomatic at the early stage of some chronic diseases. Some of these diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, may have complications that can affect the elders adversely. In these cases, early detection can aid in better control of diseases. Therefore, elders should have regular health check for these diseases.
- Other than detecting chronic illnesses, health check should also include health risk assessment by health professionals. This includes assessment on health risk factors (such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking, etc) and functional assessment (such as hearing problem, vision problem, balancing problem etc). This can aid the health professionals to provide counseling, referral and health advice.
Can health check detect every disease?
- Only a few chronic illnesses and slowly progressing cancers can be detected by health check. In fact, currently many diseases cannot be detected by health check.
- No health check can be absolutely complete. Therefore, elders should not rely solely on the health check. Instead, they should always pay attention to any change in body conditions and seek medical advice if in doubt.
What should health check include?
- A comprehensive health check should include history taking, health risk assessment, physical examination and appropriate investigations. The results should be evaluated and interpreted by doctors.
How should I choose among the various health check plans/investigations?
- The health check plan should be tailor-made for the individual and preferably by family doctors.
- Certain investigations are considered "basic" as the diseases they tested are common and the investigations are not invasive. However, there is no "plan" that suits every person. On the other hand, unnecessary investigation will waste money and time. Therefore, it is advisable to consult family doctors to recommend investigations and frequency of health check.
- Some investigations are more expensive and have potential risks, and thus they are only suitable for those who are at higher risk of developing that particular disease.
- Doctors will recommend the inclusion of investigations into the health check plan according to individual’s family history, past health, risk factors and result of physical examination.
Do normal results of investigation imply perfect health?
- No investigation is perfect. There may be "false negative" and "false positive" results. In fact, some occult diseases are difficult to detect.
What is "false negative" and "false positive"?
- "False negative" occurs when the test cannot detect the presence of disease in a person with that particular disease. "False negative" can result in delay in treatment
- "False positive" refers to a false alarm that occurs when the test classifies a healthy person to have a particular disease. This can result in unnecessary anxiety and wastage of money due to further unnecessary follow up tests.
Anything that need to be paid attention to if the result of health check is normal?
- Some diseases progress rapidly, and some cannot be detected through the current technologies. For instance, an individual can develop lung cancer few months later even with a normal chest x-ray at the time of check up. Thus, a normal result from health check cannot guarantee perfect health.
- As elders are at a higher risk of developing diseases, it is advisable for them to pay attention to any change in body condition and consult doctors if in doubt.
- If there is change in body conditions such as decrease in appetite, unexplained weight loss or change in bowel habit, elders are advised to seek medical advice even if the recent health check result is normal, as these are warning signs of serious illnesses.
If the result of health check is normal, when should we have a health check again?
- While many people suggest to have health check once yearly, there is no consensus concerning the frequency of health check. The frequency of health check should depend on past health, family history and the result of previous health check.
- There are some guidelines concerning how frequent to check for some illnesses among the general public. For individuals, it is advisable for them to consult their family doctors for a personalized plan.
How to stay healthy?
- Adoption of healthy lifestyles is the most effective way of staying healthy. These include no smoking, avoid second hand smoking, regular exercise, healthy diet and maintain optimal body weight.
- Apart from decreasing the risk of developing illnesses, healthy lifestyles can help to slow down the progression of chronic diseases.