How Often Do You Really Need to See the Doc?
Despite what we’ve been told, skipping your annual checkup may not be a bad thing—in fact, it could even be good for your health.
In a new review of 14 studies involving 182,880 people, Danish researchers found that health checks didn’t reduce morbidity or mortality overall or due to cancer or cardiovascular problems.
The only thing yearly doctor visits led to was more new diagnoses—which could be detrimental to your health, scientists say, since those diagnoses may not be life-threatening or cause symptoms.
"From the evidence we've seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial," said lead researcher Lasse Krogsbøll of The Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a statement. "One reason for this might be that doctors identify additional problems and take action when they see patients for other reasons."
To be clear, the study findings don’t recommend that physicians stop carrying out tests or offering treatments, but the researchers say, "Public healthcare initiatives that are systemically offering general health checks should be resisted."
If you’re totally confused, don’t worry—two Mayo Clinic doctors, internal physician and geriatrician Kevin Fleming, M.D. and gynecologist Petra Casey, M.D., made it easy for you. Here are their recommendations for how often to have the screenings you need most.
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Mammogram (for women 40+)
Every three years
Pap smear (every five years if HPV contesting is used)
And during those appointments, be sure to speak up. "Beyond screening tests, there is much value in individual counseling on such topics as family planning, STD prevention, quitting smoking, domestic violence, and good nutrition. Simple evaluation of weight, height, and blood pressure in the office can help guide those discussions," Dr. Casey says.