Important health check ups for Singaporeans
As we grow older, it’s on us to make sure our health is in check. But to anyone without a medical degree, the world of doctors, hospitals and health check ups can be straight-up confusing. We usually don’t know which medical tests are necessary, and even worse, when they’re necessary, until it’s too late.
To help you out, we’ve compiled various important medical tests that we’ll all need at some point in our lives, based on information from Parkway Shenton medical group. These are grouped according to age, so you’ll know if you, your parents or your grandparents may be due for a checkup.
– 20s to 30s –
1. Blood investigations – to screen for sexually transmitted infections
Blood is the basic unit of life, and a blood investigation can reveal more than you think. For those worried about sexual health, many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be detected with a blood test.
Additionally, blood investigations are also used to check your cholesterol profile which can determine your risk of heart diseases and tell you whether it’s time to cut down on the fried foods. Meanwhile, a routine blood count checks the levels of everything from haemoglobin to platelets to see if there are any deficiencies, infections or cancer.
2. Pap smear – for women who are sexually active
A pap smear is kind of like a rite of passage for every woman above the age of 21 as it’s used to detect cervical cancer, the 10th most common cancer among women in Singapore. It’s recommended for all women above the age of 25 once every 3 years, especially those who are sexually active.
At the age of 30 onwards, you should also combine pap smears with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years even if you’ve been vaccinated before. For those unaware, HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is a known cause of cervical cancer, and can be contracted even via skin contact.
3. Liver function tests – for those who drink a lot of alcohol
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in alcohol to counter the stress of adulting, but too much too often and your liver will suffer the consequences. Alcohol-related problems like hepatitis, fatty liver disease and cirrhosis can severely damage the body’s largest internal organ.
To determine whether treatment or lifestyle changes are needed, a liver function test or abdominal ultrasound is important to check the state of your liver, especially if you frequently consume alcohol.
4. Kidney function test – for those with pre-existing health issues
Those who recall their O-Level Biology will know that the kidney is a jack-of-all-trades organ that cleans our blood, secretes essential hormones and regulates blood pressure. So seeing how important it is, a kidney function test can let you know whether everything is working properly. After all, early detection is key.
Painful urination or swelling feet and hands are just a few of the symptoms of kidney disease. And those who already suffer from high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes are especially vulnerable too.
– 40s to 50s –
5. Mammogram – to check for breast cancer
A mammogram machine
Image credit: Wallpaper Flare
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer Singaporean women face, with roughly 1 in 16 developing it at some point in their lives. But the good news is, the earlier it’s detected, the higher your chances are for recovery.
A mammogram – an x-ray imaging of the breast – is typically used to detect breast cancer. According to the Health Promotion Board, healthy women from 40-49 years old should go for annual screenings, while those above 50 should go bi-annually.
6. Treadmill test (Stress ECG) – to detect heart diseases
Picture a scene in a movie where the main character’s strapped up to a treadmill via a web of wires. Well, that’s what a treadmill test (stress ECG) looks like, where a doctor will monitor your heart functions and blood pressure while you’re exercising.
It’s a simple test, but it can detect your risk for heart diseases, coronary artery disease or any issues with blood flow if your heart rhythms are abnormal. It should be done for those who have family members with a history of heart problems or if you’ve experienced symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath out of the blue.
7. Prostate tumour marker & ultrasound – to test for prostate cancer
According to data from the Singapore Cancer Registry, prostate cancer is the 3rd most common cancer Singaporean men face. Be on the lookout for early symptoms including difficulty urinating, an interrupted urine flow or even urinating blood – not a sight you want to see in the morning.
It’s more commonly diagnosed among smokers and men aged above 50, and you’ll be considered high risk if any immediate family members were previously diagnosed. In such cases, you might be advised to do a prostate tumour marker blood test or a prostate ultrasound for a more thorough internal check.
8. Eye checks – to check for glaucoma
Your usual visit to the optometrist will probably be for worsening eyesight or to get new spectacles, but there are also more serious eye checks you might want to consider. One such test is tonometry which can determine whether you’re developing glaucoma, a condition that can gradually lead to blindness.
As scary as it sounds, only about 3% of Singaporeans aged above 40 are affected, and the disease can be managed if detected early. Some of the early onset symptoms include a gradual loss of peripheral vision or increasingly blurred vision that should send you straight for a checkup.
– 50s and above –
9. Bone mineral density test – to check for osteoporosis
Image credit: Parkway Shenton
Often coined as the “silent disease”, osteoporosis occurs when the bones in your body lose density, becoming weaker and more brittle to the point of breaking. The elderly are especially at higher risk due to lower activity and poorer health, so this is something you’ll want to take note of for your parents or grandparents.
Since osteoporosis symptoms are invisible, a bone mineral density test is needed once every 2-3 years. If a diagnosis is confirmed, calcium supplements and some lifestyle changes such as regular exercise can prevent the condition from getting worse.
10. Nasoendoscopy – for sleep apnea, throat and nose issues
The body experiences its fair share of wear and tear as we age, and the throat and nose are not spared. Problems like dysphagia which is difficulty swallowing, or sleep apnea which gives you breathing troubles while sleeping, can be obstructive to your daily life.
So if your grandparents are experiencing any of the issues above or anything related to the nose, throat or mouth, they may opt for a nasoendoscopy. In some cases, it might even detect nose or throat cancer.
11. Uroflowmetry & bladder scan – for a bladder health check up
Experiencing pain while urinating is never a good sign. If the issue is persistent, it could be due to a urinary tract infection for both men and women or prostate enlargement for men – both of which become more common with age.
Via a uroflowmetry and bladder scan, doctors will be able to conduct a comprehensive test on the bladder to measure urine flow, volume and speed to determine its health status.
12. Colonoscopy & stool occult blood test – to check for colon cancer
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Once one reaches that half-centennial of age, it’s time to start screening for colon cancer, which happens to be the most common form of potentially fatal cancers in Singapore. It’s unfortunate but as we grow older, we’re more prone to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, both of which can contribute to the disease.
A non-invasive test is a stool occult blood test, where the patient will have to provide a faecal sample via a home test kit. The second test is a colonoscopy which allows doctors to assess the internals of the colon.
If your family members have a history of colon cancer, or if your elderly relatives are experiencing early symptoms like rectal bleeding and abdominal pain, schedule an appointment for them, stat.
Health check ups you need to get as you age
Image credit: Parkway Shenton
For many of us, health check ups may not be at the forefront of our minds, but preventive screening from young can be lifesavers especially when it comes to early detection of common diseases. Common issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can lie silent for a few years before causing serious complications like heart problems.
If you’re unsure where to start, check out Parkway Shenton’s Executive Health Screening (EHS) packages. They have specifically-tailored tests that take factors such as your age, demographic, family history and pre-existing conditions into account.
Younger folks between the ages of 20-40 can opt for the more basic Classic screening, which includes tests for diabetes, autoimmune diseases and checks on your vitals like liver and kidneys.
For older folks above 40 or those with pre-existing conditions, opt for more sophisticated screenings such as the Premier and Prestige packages that cover more comprehensive tests. These include full blood and vital signs tests, as well as tumour and bone density screenings which are suitable for both men and women. Additional add-on tests for the digestive system and allergies are available too.
To ensure your safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkway Shenton has put in place stringent safety measures such as visitor screening and limiting the number of patients to ensure the safety of all. On top of that, clinics are disinfected daily so you can go through your screenings with a peace of mind.
Each of the 7 different screening packages will come with a detailed report that also includes customised lifestyle suggestions. Note that they recommend the health check ups once yearly for healthy individuals without any medical history. That way, you can detect any potential common diseases early on or simply have a peace of mind knowing you’re healthy.
This post was brought to you by Parkway Shenton.