"That's a lot to bite off in a 20-minute visit," he said.
Different medical associations and agencies have varying guidelines on when certain things should be checked, Bonham said.
People should talk to their doctor about when and how often they should have a checkup so they can determine what's most reasonable for that individual's situation, Bonham said.
Bonham encourages his patients to get a health maintenance checkup every two to three years unless he sees them more often.
Such an exam includes checking for hypertension, cholesterol issues and blood sugar, but a lot of the important information comes from sitting and talking with your doctor, Bonham said.
Symptoms and family history can dictate a more precise look at what the patient should be screened for, Bonham said. Perhaps a person's situation dictates getting a test done earlier than many people would.
Some people think that when a blood sample is taken, that blood is tested for everything, but that's a misperception, Bonham said. That's why it's important to first talk to your doctor about symptoms and family history. It could lead to your blood being tested for more than the basics like cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, publishes pocket guides to good health for adults, children and people 50 and older.
The guides are available online at www.ahrq.gov/consumer or you can call 1-800-358-9295 for a free copy.
Here are some things the AHRQ and Bonham suggest getting checked and when:
· Blood pressure for hypertension. This can be a disease with no symptoms.
· Cholesterol and blood sugar.
A blood sample should be taken to test both for people 30 and older. These tests should be done earlier if other criteria are met such as a family history or symptoms.
Bonham refers to cholesterol as "the good, the bad and the ugly." The good cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein. The bad cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein. The ugly is triglycerides. A person's total cholesterol level doesn't tell the whole story. It's important to get a breakdown, he said.
High blood sugar is indicative of diabetes.
· A full exam, head to toe. The list of things a physician looks for are endless, but some examples are skin problems, skin cancer, listening to the heart for a heart murmur, and feeling the belly for masses or abnormalities, Bonham said.
· Men should have a rectal exam to have their prostate checked at age 35 and older, Bonham said.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's findings in 2002, the prostate-specific antigen blood test can help detect early-stage prostate cancer, but the test can result in false positives that lead to unnecessary anxiety, biopsies and treatment.
A better test is needed than the prostate-specific antigen blood test, Bonham said.
He recommends men 50 and older at least discuss the pros and cons of this test with their physicians.
If there is an abnormality, the man probably should see a urologist, he said.
· To check for cervical cancer, women should begin having a Pap smear and pelvic examination at age 18 or earlier if they are sexually active, Bonham said.
He said gynecologists probably would recommend an annual Pap smear.
The AHRQ recommends this test be done at least every three years, more often if a person is at high risk.
· Girls and women should have their breasts examined as soon as they develop them, Bonham said. Younger girls should be taught how to examine their own breasts or at least discuss it with their doctor, he said.
· Men, starting when they are teenagers, should have their testicles examined for the same thing for which girls have their breasts examined, lumps or bumps that weren't there before, Bonham said. Boys also should learn how to examine their own testicles, he said.
· Women should begin having mammograms at age 40, Bonham said. He said there was some controversy when a national health agency recommended women start getting mammograms at age 50.
Women should get a mammogram every one to two years starting at age 40, according to the National Cancer Institute's Web site at www.cancer.gov.
Bonham does recommend having a mammogram at age 40, at least to get a baseline to compare with later exam results.
· A colonoscopy exam should be done at age 50 and then, if everything is normal, every 10 years, Bonham said.