Questions to ask at a physical exam
Don't be afraid to ask questions and take the time to discuss all health concerns with your physician. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Courtney S.)
A patient who has no chronic health issues might not know the right type of questions to ask during a routine physical. But Amy Anderson, a highly rated Dallas primary care physician, says the one-on-one consulting time is an opportunity you shouldn’t waste.
“This is your time to be looked over,” Anderson says. “Think of it as a 100,000 mile tune up. I think a good doctor does a head-to-toe physical.”
Among the common things that are assessed during a physical exam are routine blood work, kidney and liver disease screening, a check of a patient’s cholesterol, blood sugar and thyroid and an update on immunizations.
More specific tests may depend on age.
“I’d want to know, given my age, what has been proven to make me healthier,” Anderson says. “For a lot of ages, there isn’t anything you need to do.”
The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screenings for breast cancer for women over 40 and advises men over 50 to talk with their doctor about the pros and cons of prostate examinations. For both men and women, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years once a patient reaches the age of 50.
James Rea, a highly rated Indianapolis primary care physician emphasizes avoiding unnecessary tests.
“You may have someone coming who is 35, perfectly healthy and at no risk at all,” he says. “You’re probably not going to get a colonoscopy. There are risks for these exams and there are costs. And when you get in to the practicality, an insurance company probably wouldn’t pay for the $3,000 procedure either.”
Rea says patients should be forthcoming with their family’s history of illnesses in order to know if a procedure might be needed before a recommended age.
During your routine physical exam, it’s best to be safe, but also reasonable, according to Anderson.
“Find the preventative health care that has been proven to save lives,” she says. “Tests like full body CT scans really haven’t proven to make much of a difference."
Anderson agrees and add that family history questions are the most important to ask to understand additional risks.