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Five overlooked screenings you should include on your preventive care checklist

Many people reserve visits to the doctor for times when they’re sick — but if you aren’t proactive about your health, you could be missing out on important preventive care from your physician. Included in this care are mammograms, blood tests, colonoscopies, bone density tests, and certain cancer screenings. Most patients are familiar with these usual suspects in preventive care, but there are other tests and screenings that may not be on your radar. 

In addition to the common preventive care screenings, below are five more to add to your checklist and discuss with your primary care doctor. Scroll further down to find a complete preventive care checklist. 


Five screenings to add to your preventive care checklist

1. Skin cancer screening

Even if you aren’t tan, you could still be at risk for skin cancer. Doctors recommend adults get checked yearly for melanomas and other types of skin cancer. If caught early, the lesions can easily be treated.   


2. Lung CT scan 

Longtime smokers face an increased risk of myriad conditions and diseases, making certain preventive health screenings essential. One study by the National Institutes of Health found that a low-dose CT scan can detect lung cancer relatively early and reduce deaths due to lung cancer by as much as 20 percent. 


Add a lung CT scan to your preventive care checklist if two of these three criteria apply to you: 


  • You’re between the ages of 55-80 

  • You smoked one pack a day for 20-plus years, or 

  • You smoked two or more packs a day for 10-plus years 


If you meet these age and cigarette use guidelines, your insurance might cover your CT scan. If you’re a heavy smoker and don’t meet all the criteria, you should consider a scan as well. 


3. Depression screening

Mental health can affect not only your sense of well-being but also your physical well-being. Depression might exacerbate existing health conditions and can contribute to a compromised immune system, digestive issues, breathing difficulties and heart disease. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 40 million U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder, and about 21 million had at least one major depressive episode in 2020.  Depression is the most common mental illness, and it’s easily identified by its most prominent symptoms: 


  • persistent sadness 

  • hopelessness or helplessness 

  • lack of motivation 

  • tearfulness 

  • no longer enjoying your favorite activities 

  • difficulty making decisions 

  • neglecting self-care (showering, brushing teeth or combing your hair, for example) 


But there are some signs that may not be readily recognized as depression symptoms: 


  • persistent or profound tiredness 

  • irritability 

  • physical pain 

  • weight fluctuations 

  • lack of interest in sex 

  • undeserved feelings of guilt 

  • increased alcohol or drug use 


If you experience any of these symptoms, make a primary care appointment. Your doctor can help rule out or confirm physical causes of depression symptoms, such as thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, medications and more. When necessary, your doctor can refer you to a trusted mental health specialist.


4. Lifestyle and health habits check 

Your primary care physician isn’t being nosy when he or she asks about your alcohol and tobacco use, diet, the supplements you take and other personal habits. This information helps your doctor assess your individual health risks — so be honest. With an overview of your lifestyle, your primary care doctor can help you form a preventive care plan to reduce your health risks. 


5. Dental health examination

Preventive dental care is about more than keeping your teeth pearly white. There is a strong correlation between the amount of plaque on your teeth and the amount of plaque in the arteries of your heart. Research suggests that periodontal disease increases the risk of a cardiovascular event three-fold: The same bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontitis can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body, including the heart.  Preventive dental care includes a thorough examination of your teeth, mouth and jaw and an annual X-ray. With annual or bi-annual exams, your dentist can detect cavities, gum disease and other oral health issues early. 


Preventive care checklist


Save this preventive care screenings checklist as a guide for better overall health. All tests are annual, unless otherwise noted. There may be other health tests and screenings your doctor can recommend to you based on your personal health history, family medical history, lifestyle and genetic risks.


All adults

Blood pressure – target rate 120/80 or lower 

Blood sugar (type 2 diabetes) – starting at age 45

BMI (body mass index) 

Cholesterol test – ages 35 and up 

Colonoscopy (colorectal cancer) – ages 45 and up 

Dental exam – all ages 

Depression – all ages

Lung CT scan (cancer) – smokers ages 55 and up 




Mammogram (breast cancer) – age 40, then every 1-2 years 

Pap smear (cervical cancer) – age 21, then every 3 years 



Testicular exam (prostate) – ages 18 and up 


A BJC primary care provider is your key to staying healthier for longer through preventive health services. If you don’t already have a doctor, find primary care near you, and start building a relationship with your most important partner in preventive health care. 


A BJC primary care provider is your partner in health care. Your primary care team is here to handle routine health needs and treat illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions. A primary care provider can help you reach your wellness goals. Learn more.

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