Most of us should probably have a medical check-up. That is something we all hear quite often; few people take any notice, but health professionals and the World Health Organisation (WHO) say regular check-ups are important after the age of 45, or earlier than that if there is a family history of certain illnesses.
Check-ups before that age are not normally necessary, unless we think there may be something wrong with us. Gonzalo Sanz, medical director at the Premium Marbella Clinic, explained that men over 45 should regularly check three aspects of their health: cardiology (heart and lungs), digestive (colon cancer) and urology (prostate cancer, bladder and kidneys).
Women should do the same, but with gynaecological check-ups instead of
urological ones (breast cancer, uterus, cervix). However, if there is a family precedent of these types of cancer, and definitely if two close relatives have had it, the check-ups should start at the age of 40.
After the first check-up, the results will determine how often the tests should be repeated. Patients with no family history of health problems and no risk factors can have a check-up every two years. However, if a urological problem is detected, for example if the prostate tumour marker is high, the test should be repeated every six months.
With cardiology, it varies a great deal, but annual checks are recommended. For digestive checks, as these involve a colonoscopy (examination of the colon) these should be done every two years “because this is a test which needs to be done regularly” said Dr Sanz.
For children, the annual check-up by a paediatrician is all that is needed, because they will raise the alarm if they notice any problems in growth, genital development, malnutrition, etc.
Children who belong to federated sports clubs have to provide a medical report at the start of every season. This needs to include an electrocardiogram, general blood test and physical examination.
“In 99 per cent of cases these tests on children don’t show anything untoward, but if they do then they are referred to a specialist,” explained Dr Sanz.
Medical check-ups are not deemed necessary between the ages of 20 and 35, but in some cases, depending on someone’s profession, whether they smoke or lead a very sedentary life, a metabolic profile is recommended to determine levels of sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.
At this age doctors don’t normally carry out colonoscopies “because the risk is so low that statistically, the tests are riskier than the possible benefits”, explained Dr Sanz.
In many cases, the check-ups can save the health service money, because the more that are carried out and the more illnesses which are detected early, the less money has to be spent on treatment. Having said that, an extensive check-up with specific tests can be costly.
Prostate and colon cancer are the illnesses which are detected most frequently, at a rate of 10 to 15 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. High blood pressure is very common, and 30 per cent of the population over the age of 50 suffers from it; it is very easily detected, however, and that reduces the number of heart attacks.
How many illnesses can be prevented altogether by investing in check-ups? Doctors say two tests are definitely worth doing because they give excellent results: mammograms, to prevent breast cancer, and blood in faeces, which could be colon cancer. These tests are both cheap and profitable from a diagnostic point of view.
However, it is often the case that a simple visit to our GP for a chat, during which we tell him or her how we are feeling, is all it takes to enjoy good health.