Having regular examinations to detect disease at an early curable stage is a component of preventive healthcare. Many diseases can now be detected by screening. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, breast cancer, and cervical cancer are the most common screening tests. High blood pressure reduces life expectancy because of an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
Anyone over the age of 45 should see their doctor once a year to have it checked
There is also a growing interest in measuring blood cholesterol, high levels may mean an increased risk of heart disease. There are certain simple checks which we should do at home to try and pick up disease at an early stage when chances of a complete cure or control are high.
All women should examine their breasts every month, at the same time in their menstrual cycle, to search for lumps. They should also have cervical smears at least once a year. Men too, should examine their testes monthly to feel for swelling or heaviness that may indicate testicular cancer (the most common cancer in men under 40). Are we not becoming neurotic thinking and talking so much about our health? Certainly, there is evidence that some people worry unnecessarily about their health, but most doctors believe that the advantages of regular check-ups far out-weigh the disadvantages.
Early warning signs of possible serious illness
Many serious illnesses begin with apparently minor or localised symptoms which, if recognised early, can alert you to act in time for the disease to be cured or controlled. Very often there will be nothing seriously wrong. Even so, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor without delay.
- Rapid weight loss – more than 4kgs in ten weeks without apparent cause.
- A sore, scab or ulcer, either in the mouth, or on the body, that fails to heal within three weeks.
- A skin blemish or mole that starts to bleed or itch, or that changes colour,size or shape in middle age.
- Severe, persistent headaches that develop for no obvious reason.
- Sudden attacks of vomiting without preceding nausea.
- Fainting spells for no apparent reason.
- Visual problems, such as seeing flashing lights or floating spots. Blurred vision, especially in dim lights.
- Increasing difficulty in swallowing.
- Hoarseness that is recurrent or lasts without apparent cause for more than two weeks.
- A persistent “smokers” cough or any cough that has progressively been getting more severe.
- Blood in coughed-up sputum.
- Constantly swollen ankles.
- Extreme shortness of breath for no apparent reason.
- Vomiting of blood or black or dark brown matter that resembles coffee granules.
- Persistent indigestion or abdominal pain.
- A marked change in normal bowel habits.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Cloudy pink, red or smoky-brown urine.
- In women: a lump (or any unusual thickening) in a breast: alteration in breast shape (flattening or bulging): or change in breast skin(wrinkling or dimpling)
- In women bleeding or discharge from nipple.
- In women: irregular vaginal bleeding or “spotting” that occurs between menses or any other time after menopause.
- In men: discharge from penis.
- In men: discomfort when passing urine.