Choosing which health tests to take can be daunting. Here’s what to consider when choosing the right health screening package for you here in Singapore.
The more, the better?
While you may want to get screened for every single disease using all available screening tools to get a “clean bill of health”, don’t, advises Dr Michael Wong, Family Physician and Consultant, Raffles Medical. Not only will this needlessly burden your wallet since additional screening tests will cost more, but also some tests – like cancer markers – may produce false positive results, which may create unnecessary anxiety.
“You should always understand the tests that are included before choosing a health screening package. If you have specific health concerns or a strong family history of certain diseases, discuss them in advance with your doctor, who will assess and advise you on the right screening package to get,” says Dr Wong. “This way, you can be assured that you are screened for the appropriate diseases using the necessary tests.”
Returning for a post-examination review with your doctor after getting your health screening results is also important, he says, as your doctor can help interpret your results, address your concerns and advise you what to do next.
“Depending on your budget and your personal medical history, you can get a basic health screening package containing the essentials, and add on other necessary tests at an additional cost,” says Dr Wong. “Or, you can get a comprehensive package containing most of the tests you need and is within your budget.”
Specialist screening packages
Those with pre-existing medical conditions and/or a family history, may opt for specialist screening packages, where a specialist doctor conducts screenings based on risk factors that contribute to an individual’s specific diseases or health needs. Raffles Medical has various specialist packages available to screen for different components including chronic diseases, cancers and infectious diseases.
Raffles Treasure Package
This package, which includes a variety of laboratory and radiology tests, is recommended for busy bodies who don’t want long waiting times. With this package, the patient can also meet with the internal medicine specialist directly.
Heart screening packages
This package is for those who have heart concerns, and includes a consultation with a heart specialist rather than a general physician. A typical heart screening package screens for risk factors that contribute to various heart diseases, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. The cardiologist will give an in-depth evaluation of your heart screening results, and offer advice on managing your heart health.
Gastroscopy and colonoscopy screening packages
Both men and women are at equal risk of developing colorectal cancer. People with a first degree relative (parent, sibling or offspring) with colorectal cancer have a two to three times higher risk of developing it. And, gastric cancer is the seventh most common cancer in males and the eighth most common cancer in females. If diagnosed early, these types of cancer are highly treatable. However, many patients are often diagnosed in later stages of these diseases, when treatment is more difficult. Therefore, catching gastric and colon cancer early through screening is key.
The must-check lifestyle diseases
Regardless of which health-screening package you choose, Dr Wong says it’s important to make sure it includes the most common lifestyle diseases:
Cervical cancer screening (for females)
Evaluated with a pap smear, cervical cancer is highly treatable if detected early. Your doctor will collect cell samples from your cervix to test any abnormalities. All sexually active women aged 25 and above should get a pap smear done once every three years.
Breast cancer screening (for females aged 40 and above)
Breast cancer is the top cancer among women. All women are at risk of getting breast cancer, and the chances of developing it increases with age. Your risk increases if you are aged 40 or older, or have a family history of breast cancer. A mammogram can screen for breast cancer and detect micro calcifications in your breasts, which are seen in early stages of breast cancer. To confirm the results, your doctor may order additional imaging tests or a biopsy that involves removing some of your breast tissue for analysis.
Colorectal Cancer (for adults aged 50 and above)
Colorectal cancer is usually tested using the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or Faecal Immuochemical Test (FIT). Your stool will be tested for hidden blood, which is a possible indicator of colorectal cancer. If your test turns out positive, your doctor may order extra tests such as a colonoscopy, to confirm the presence of colorectal cancer.
One in three Singaporeans are at risk of developing diabetes. While not fatal, undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness and other disabilities. You can check for diabetes with a fasting blood sugar level test that requires you to fast for eight to 10 hours prior.
High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)
Too much cholesterol in your body can narrow your arteries, and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. You can get a fasting lipids blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. Like the blood sugar test, you’ll need to fast eight to 10 hours before your test.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Left undetected and uncontrolled, high blood pressure can damage your body over time, eventually causing heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Most health screening packages will include the blood pressure test.
Your BMI is a good indicator of obesity. Obese people are at higher risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, as well as certain cancers. By keeping your BMI in the healthy range, you will also reduce your risk of such diseases.
There are, of course, plenty of other tests to consider – from chronic and infectious disease screenings to cancer checks – so it’s best to talk to your doctor about what’s appropriate for you based on your age, gender, and personal and family history.
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