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The Importance of Preventive Health Screenings

The Importance of Preventive Health Screenings


doctor and baby The concept of ‘managing your health’ or ‘staying healthy’ often translates to eating healthy and regular exercise, while going to the doctor associated with being sick. In fact, visiting the doctor regularly for preventive care is an important part of staying healthy.

With new 2014 insurance policies, every insurance plan includes a wide array of preventive care services at no charge to the individual. Regular screenings are important; the earlier a doctor can diagnose and treat a condition, the easier and more effective treatment generally is. Below we examine common screenings recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The frequency for each exam varies by age and sex, but they are all important aspects of your health.
Please speak with your doctor and visit Adult Preventive Health Recommendations for more information.

Annual Check-ups

Annual wellness visits (also called Check-ups or Physicals) typically include height and weight measurements, blood pressure and pulse readings. Sometimes this also includes a blood test that can identify diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid levels. Be sure to ask your insurance company if lab work is covered as a preventive service – often it is not. Your check-up is an opportunity to discuss your current health concerns, your health history and any questions you might have. The healthcare professional may ask or counsel you about your lifestyle choices such as drinking, smoking, nutrition, or physical activity. A skin check is common, if you are at high risk for skin cancer.


A colonoscopy screens for ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding in the inner lining of your large intestine. During this procedure, the doctor collects any abnormal tissue for a biopsy and removes small abnormal growths. This screening enables doctors to identify possible problems very early on and can significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The National Institute for Health (NIH) recommends this test for individuals age 50 or older, with frequency determined by the presence or absence of any abnormalities. Earlier and more frequent screenings are possible, based on a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps.

Prostate Exam

Prostate exams are an important screen for men; they are one of the best ways to diagnose rectal tumors, prostate disorders, digestive disorders and other forms of cancer. These conditions are most treatable when identified early. Because of this, medical professionals recommend screenings begin between the ages of 40 to 50 years old. The frequency of the exam depends on your risk level – be sure to talk to your doctor.

Female Annuals

Annual female gynecological exams generally include a pelvic exam, a breast exam, and a pap test. The pelvic exam checks internal reproductive organs and can identify ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and abnormalities. The pap smear takes cell tissue from the cervix, which helps identify cervical dysplasia or cancer. The breast exam checks for concerning cysts or lumps, a possible indication of breast cancer. Many healthcare professionals also counsel women on sexual activity, contraceptives, pregnancy and domestic violence in these exams. The NIH recommends women get these exams every 1-3 years, depending on risk and health history.


A mammogram is an early detection and diagnostic tool for breast cancer. It is an x-ray picture of the breast that screens for tumors or deposits of calcium that can form in the tissue. These exams are vital because many forms of breast cancer are much more treatable if detected early. The NIH recommends screenings start for women around the age of 40, depending on risk and health history.

Bone Density

A bone density test screens for osteoporosis (the loss of bone mass) which is most common in older women. It uses X-rays to measure how calcium and other bone minerals density in a segment of bone. The NIH recommends screenings for men and women over the age of 65, unless you experience a fracture or have a higher risk due to family history.

Eye and Dental Exams

Annual vision exams and bi-annual dental exams are important for everyone. They help maintain vision and oral health. These exams typically include screenings for vision and oral diseases, including eye cancer, glaucoma, cataracts, throat cancers, periodontal disease and much else.
Healthcare providers are here to help everyone stay healthy and well, as well as treating the injured and ill. This brief overview of preventive care services highlights the services available to ensure good health, inside and out. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what preventive screenings you need, and how often. Contact your health insurance provider if you have any questions about coverage of a procedure or screen.

If you are a Rocky Mountain Health Plans member and you are looking for a new provider, please visit RMHP’s provider directory.