Preventive care includes all the services that help detect medical conditions in their early stages, so they don’t become more serious and harder to treat. Annual wellness visits, vaccines, tests and screenings are just a few of the ways you can proactively manage your health, but your doctor will recommend what’s right for you.
Annual Wellness Visits
Annual wellness visits are an opportunity to learn about your current health, address any concerns and learn what preventive measures you can take to ensure your long-term well-being. At each visit, your provider will perform a physical exam and check your height, weight, blood pressure and other routine measurements. And depending on your age, gender and specific health needs, you also may be prescribed certain medications, tests, screenings or specialty visits.
Before the age of three, well-child visits are needed more often, since development occurs so quickly. Beginning at age three, annual preventive visits are recommended. During the well-child visit, your pediatrician will do a complete physical exam to ensure your child is growing and developing normally and provide any vaccines that may be due. Write down any health or behavior concerns you want to bring up and talk to your provider often about your child’s progress. Once your child reaches the teen years, one-on-one visits between your child and the provider will set the stage for independence.
The first well-woman exam should be scheduled in the mid- to late-teens. Then beginning at age 21, women should get them annually. As part of the exam, the doctor will perform a breast and pelvic exam (to check for ovarian or uterine abnormalities) and take a Pap test (to screen for cell changes on the cervix that could develop into cervical cancer). Starting at age 30, a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test will be taken with the Pap test.
Prenatal checkups are an important part of making sure you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. During these visits, your provider will monitor your baby’s development, help ease any discomfort you may be having and perform routine tests to uncover and/or manage any possible complications. It is best to begin prenatal care before you become pregnant — but the sooner you start, the better. During the early stages of pregnancy, you’ll only need to see your provider every few weeks, but the rate of visits will increase as you get closer to your due date.
Regular cancer screenings are used to identify any signs of cancer in people with no symptoms. This allows the cancer to be treated in its earliest stages, when it is the most treatable. Based on your particular risk, age and gender, your provider may recommend one or more of these screenings:
- Pap tests: Women should get regular Pap tests starting at age 21. As long as Pap tests have been normal, they only need to be done every three years.
- Mammograms: Women at average risk for breast cancer should consider having their first mammogram at age 40. Between the ages of 45 and 74, mammograms should be scheduled annually or as recommended by your provider.
- Colonoscopies: The most accurate screening for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, although there are also other types of colorectal cancer screenings. Starting at age 50, men and women should get a colonoscopy every 10 years (or earlier and more often for those at high risk).
In addition to annual wellness visits and cancer screenings, learn what preventative measures you should take to stay on top of your health.
Preventive vs. Diagnostic Care
While preventive care is provided when you are symptom free, diagnostic care includes services used to diagnose or treat a condition based on symptoms or abnormal test results. Depending on your situation, both types of care may be provided at the same visit. The same procedure might even be classified differently, depending on your situation.
As part of your plan, preventive services are covered at 100%. However, you may be responsible for a portion of diagnostic services provided at a visit— so make sure to talk to your provider about what you might be responsible for. Health Plan Services can answer questions you might have as well.
The Value of Prevention
Even if you are healthy and have no physical issues, it’s important to keep up with regular annual wellness exams, vaccines, tests and screenings. You can always gain valuable information that will help you stay on track.