Regular check-ups, tests and scans can help you stay on top of your health and identify early signs of health problems. Depending on your age and lifestyle, there are certain tests you should do regularly.
General health check-ups
It’s important to have general health check-ups even if you feel healthy. This is because many diseases and conditions can take a long time to develop and regular health check-ups can help to identify early signs. A general health check-up is an assessment of your current state of health. Your general practitioner (GP) will usually perform the examination. You’ll need to make an appointment to get a health check. It’s best to see the same doctor each time you have a health check, that way you can build a relationship with them and they can track your medical history.
At a health check-up your doctor can:
- check for current health issues
- assess your risk of developing issues in the future
- assess your lifestyle
- check if you need any vaccinations.
If you have a high risk of getting an illness or disease, your doctor may also be able to offer suggestions to help reduce your risk.
Skin cancer check
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in world. Yet there’s no formal skin checking program in Australia. Doctors advise that you should check your skin for any changes every three months. If you notice changes, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Read more about how to check for signs of skin cancer at the Cancer Council. You can also choose to go to a skin cancer clinic to have a skin check.
Heart health checks
You should have a heart health check at least once every 2 years once you're over 45, or once you're over 35 if you're Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Your GP will ask you questions about your lifestyle and family and perform a blood pressure check. You might also need a blood cholesterol test.
Being overweight is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you have concerns, ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement every two years.
Depending on your risk level, may need to get a fasting blood sugar test for diabetes every one to three years. You be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- are over 40
- have a family member with type 2 diabetes
- are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
- were born in Asia
- are not physically active
You should have a diabetes test every year if you’re pre-diabetic. You can speak to your doctor about getting a diabetes check. If they think you should be tested, they can fill in a pathology request form which you can take to a collection to have the blood test.
If you’re over 50 or have a close relative who has had prostate cancer, you should discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest an annual screening blood test. Depending on the results of the blood test and your medical history, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further tests. You can find out at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
From the age of 50, men should undergo a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years. This can be done in the privacy of your own home using a bowel cancer screening test. Call Bowel Cancer Australia on 1800 555 494 to get yours or visit the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program for more information. Men at high risk of bowel cancer may need a colonoscopy every five years.
You should also see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- bleeding from the rectum or any sign of blood after a bowel motion
- a recent and persistent change in bowel habits
- constipation or needing to go to the toilet more often
- abdominal pain, bloating or cramping
For a complete list of signs to watch out for, see bowel cancer symptoms at Healthdirect Australia.
You should see a dentist for a check-up once a year. Depending on the condition of your teeth, your dentist may recommend more regular check-ups.
From puberty onwards, check yourself regularly for any unusual thickenings or lumps in the testicles. If you notice anything strange, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
If you are sexually active, it’s a good idea to be tested for sexually transmitted infections every 6-12 months. You should get a test even if you don’t have any symptoms.
Vision and hearing tests
Men who don’t wear prescription glasses or contact lenses should have their eyes tested every two to three years, however you should have a test if you notice any changes to your vision. If you already wear glasses, you should have them tested annually. Men over 60 should have their eyes tested yearly regardless, as eyesight deteriorates with age. Your doctor can test your vision and they can suggest you see an optometrist if needed. You can also go straight to an optometrist to have your vision check.
If you’re often exposed to loud noises, you should also have your hearing checked regularly. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should have your hearing checked:
- ringing sensations in the ears
- people complaining that you talk too loudly
- ·often having to ask people to repeat what they’re saying
- struggling to hear conversations
If you’re over 65, you should have yearly hearing tests. Your doctor can test your hearing or refer you to an audiologist.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.