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HEALTHY REASONING: Why You Shouldn’t Miss Your Annual Checkup

HEALTHY REASONING: Why You Shouldn’t Miss Your Annual Checkup

By Allan Bucka Jones
Pride Health Columnist

As we end this first month of 2015, and move into February, you should have already booked the date for you to do this year’s annual check-up or physical…if not, please do so as soon as possible.

A few weeks ago in this column I reported on the results of a survey conducted at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. The survey was done, because healthcare workers at the hospital observed that when Black individuals turn up to do tests, to see if they had four of the common cancers, breast, prostate, cervical and colorectal, the cancer is most times diagnosed in the later stages. The late diagnosis is a problem, as it makes potential treatment of the cancer more difficult. One reason for this lack of timely cancer screening is the failure of many individuals to have an annual interaction with their family physician. The annual health check or physical is important, because it provides that interaction, and your doctor is able to remind you of any critical and necessary tests that need to be done. It also allows you get a thorough health assessment from the doctor.

There are two parts to the annual visit to your family doctor, the talking portion and the physical exam. The annual checkup is a good time to go through your list of issues. The time spent talking to your doctor is the most important part of the exam. This is where you will not only discuss physical symptoms you may be experiencing, but also any changes in your life, such as stress, racism directed to you, a new job, weight issues, a new medication, a death in the family or divorce.

The Ontario government and the Ontario Medical Association agreed that the time allotted to doing the annual check-up or physical examination should be based on the “health” of the patient. The physician involved can spend more time, and do a thorough examination for “sicker” patients, like those who are older and have chronic diseases, (45 to 60 minutes) but devote a shorter time (30 minutes) to younger and healthier patients. Based on your history, the doctor will make a decision on timing.

Preparation for your annual check-up or physical examination is critical. Many patients go and see their family doctor for the examination, with many questions in their head, however during the examination they forget, and so the visit is not as useful as it could be, so how do you prepare for a doctor’s visit to do a physical?

First of all, you need to set a date and arrive prepared. When you call to make your appointment, tell the receptionist the reason for your visit is to do a physical. Knowing this, your doctor will generally set aside the required time to meet with you. You should write down and bring any questions you may have for your doctor about your health, and you need to insist that the doctor answers the questions, and make sure you understand the answers. It is also a good idea to bring a list of all the medications and supplements you are taking. This is especially important if other doctors have prescribed something your family doctor may be unaware of, or if you purchased some natural products on your own. Also, record any family history of disease and share with the doctor. For example, if your mother or father is diabetic, and you are not, there is a great possibility that you could develop diabetes. With this knowledge, the doctor is able to discuss diabetes preventative measures with you.

Black patients have greater susceptibility for certain diseases and medical conditions, so there are some “must do” tests when Black patients do the annual check-up or physical. If you are over 40, these are diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, chronic kidney disease and cancer screening. For women, the “must do” tests should include the Pap test, and for men the prostate cancer screening. Also, women with a family history of breast cancer should push for earlier breast cancer screening.

If you live in Canada without the proper immigration documentation, and do not have a health card, you should still do your annual check-up, and see a doctor without fear, when you need to. Community Health Centres (CHC’s) will provide you with a doctor, and confidential service, with no questions asked about your landed status. Also, these centres generally devote more time to patients than other doctors do.

The annual check-up is important and critical for sustained good health. 

Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. He can be heard on “Allan Bucka Jones LIVE”, Sundays from 3 to 5pm on CHRY 105.5 FM, CHRY RADIO App, www.chry.fm option RDO.to , Rogers Digital Cable 945, Bell Fibe 973 or mobile app TuneIn Radio. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at allan@jonesandjones.ca.

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