Here’s What You Need To Know About Health Screenings

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 12 Nov 2021

Being in a doctor’s office can be overwhelming; with all the medical jargon, sights, and sounds. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect at your next health screening and why these tests are done. 

Here’s What You Need To Know About Health Screenings

Table of Contents :

  1. Annual Health Screening
  2. Male Physical Exam
  3. Female Physical Exam
  4. Laboratory Tests
  5. Physicals Should Emphasize Prevention
  6. Do You Even Need An annual health screening?

Annual Health Screening


A physical examination is an essential aspect of every doctor’s appointment. A good doctor will spend time listening to your suggestions and providing counselling about your specific symptoms and risk factors, whether they are comprehensive or short. 


Annual exams normally check:

History. This is your opportunity to express any health issues or questions you might have. Your doctor would definitely ask you questions regarding your lifestyle habits, such as smoking, alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise. Your vaccine status will be reviewed, and your health and family medical history will be updated.

Vital Signs. There are some of the vital signs that the doctor will examine.:

  • Blood pressure: A typical blood pressure reading is less than 120 over 80. High blood pressure (hypertension) is described as a reading of 130 over 80 or higher.

  • Heart rate: Normal is described as a range of 60 to 100. However, even stable individuals have heart rates below 60.
  • Respiration rate: For a healthy adult, 12 to 16 breaths per minute is considered natural. Breathing more than 20 times a minute could indicate an issue with the heart or lungs.
  • Temperature: The normal resting temperature is 36.5C to 37.5C, although stable individuals may have resting temperatures that are either higher or lower.


General Appearance. A doctor will learn a lot about you and your condition simply from looking at you and talking to you. What's the state of your memory and mental agility? Does your skin seem to be in good condition? Are you able to stand and move without difficulty?


Heart Exam. A doctor can detect an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur, or other signs of heart disease by listening to your heart with a stethoscope.


Lung Exam. A doctor monitors for crackles, wheezes, or reduced air noises using a stethoscope. This and other sounds may indicate that you have a heart or lung problem.


Head and Neck Exam. Opening your mouth and saying “ah" reveals your tonsils and throat. The quality of your teeth and gums will reveal a lot about your general health. An examination of the ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries is also possible.


Abdominal Exam. A variety of test procedures may be used by the doctor, including tapping the abdomen to detect liver size and the involvement of intestinal fluid, checking for bowel noises using a stethoscope, and palpate for tenderness.


Neurological Exam. Nerves, muscle strength, dexterity, balance, and mental health are also things that can be evaluated.


Dermatological Exam. Findings on the skin and nails may point to a dermatological condition or disease elsewhere in the body.


Extremities Exam. Physical and sensory improvements can be examined by the doctor. You should monitor the pulses in your arms and legs. Abnormalities may be detected by examining joints.


Male Physical Exam


The following items can be used in a man's annual health screening:

  • Testicular exam: A doctor will look for lumps, tenderness, or differences in size in each testicle. Before seeing a specialist, most men with testicular cancer notice a growth.
  • Hernia exam: The well-known “turn your head and cough" examination looks for a defect in the abdominal wall that connects the intestines and the scrotum.
  • Penis exam: On the penis, a doctor might notice signs of sexually transmitted infections such as warts or ulcers.
  • Prostate exam: A doctor will feel the prostate for scale and suspicious places by inserting a finger into the rectum to examine your back passage.

Female Physical Exam


An annual health screening for a woman might involve the following:

  • Breast exam. Breast cancer or benign breast conditions may be detected by feeling for odd lumps. The doctor will often scan for visual anomalies in the breasts and nipples, as well as lymph nodes in the underarm section.
  • Pelvic exam: The vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries will also be examined during a pelvic exam. Sexually transmitted diseases are often checked on a regular basis. Cervical cancer may be detected and risk assessed using a cervical (Pap smear) test and HPV test.

Laboratory Tests


An annual physical does not have any regular laboratory examinations. Other doctors, on the other hand, can prescribe those tests on a regular basis:

  • Full blood count
  • Chemistry panel: kidneys, liver
  • Urinalysis (UA)

These studies, on the other hand, are unable to offer valuable knowledge unless signs also indicate a concern. 


According to the American Heart Association, a diagnostic lipid panel (cholesterol test) should be checked every 4 to 6 years. If you have heart attack risk factors, your doctor will want to monitor you more regularly. Heart accidents and strokes are more likely when cholesterol levels are abnormal. 


Your blood sugar would almost certainly be tested if you are overweight or have other diabetes risk factors. The American Diabetes Association advises that all people be screened for diabetes starting at the age of 45, regardless of weight. 


All above the age of 18 should be tested for hepatitis C at some stage, according to the CDC. It's possible that something could happen at one of the physicals.


Physicals Should Emphasize Prevention


The annual health screening is an ideal opportunity to refocus your efforts on prevention and screening:

  • It's time to start checking for colorectal cancer at the age of 50. People under the age of 50 who have immediate family members with colorectal cancer or other risk factors may need to be screened.
  • Some women begin annual mammogram screening for breast cancer at the age of 40. According to the American Cancer Society, women between the ages of 40 and 44 should be able to choose whether or not to begin mammograms. Women aged 45 to 54 should have mammograms per year, and women aged 55 and up should have them every two years or stick with annual screening. When it comes to when and how much to have a mammogram, women can see their doctor or another healthcare provider. Breast cancer screening recommendations vary based on the own risk of developing breast cancer and the criteria you want to adopt. When determining whether or not to start having mammograms at the age of 40, women should consider the advantages and disadvantages of screening tests.


Healthy habits avoid illness much more than medications and don't need a prescription:


  • 5 days of the week, do 30 minutes of fast walking or other activity (or about 150 minutes a week). At least twice a week, do some resistance training for muscle conditioning. Your chances of developing coronary disease, asthma, and some forms of cancer would drastically decrease. 
  • Consume a plant-based diet that is deficient in animal fats. 
  • Avoid smoking.


Do You Even Need An Annual Health Screen


Both patients and their doctor look forward to their regular medical examination. However, studies suggest that the actual exam is ineffective at detecting issues and can contribute to excessive examinations. 


The annual physical test has been deemed “unnecessary" in relatively stable individuals by leading doctors and medical organisations. 

With or without a health screen, exercising, maintaining a healthier weight, and not smoking are enough to keep most of us in good shape. Even though, no one should deny the importance of maintaining a positive interaction with your doctor by seeing him or her on a regular basis. The specifics are up to you as long as you and your doctor focus on prevention and your general wellbeing.


Referenced on  9.4.2021

  1. Laine, C. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2002.
  2. U.S. News and World Report web site: “Do You Actually Need a Physical Exam?"
  3. MedicineNet web site: “annual health screening: Unneeded Expense?"
  4. Centers for Disease Control.
  5. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. 
  6. American Heart Association: “How to Get Your Cholesterol Tested."
  7. Diabetes Care, January 2016, Supplement 1.
  8. American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.

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