Health Screening: The Early Investment to Your Health

If you ask someone what he or she thinks are the most important things in life, health and wealth are mostly likely to come up.  As they all say, health is a form of wealth. With the foundation of good health, we can achieve our life goals, create wealth, enjoy life, and be happy. But how can you achieve good health if you do not know the state at which your health is at every period in life? 

In this article, we will dive into the various health screenings available for different age groups, their importance, how often and where you can get it done. First, let us define what  health screening is. 

1. What Is Health Screening? 

Health screening, also known as a health check, medical checkup, medical surveillance, or health examination, is a series of tests and examinations that look for signs of hidden health issues before you begin to develop symptoms. By going for regular medical checkups, you have the best chance of detecting diseases early when treatment and intervention are often more effective and medical bills are less costly. If no issue is detected, you walk away with a peace of mind.

Health check benefits people of all ages and health statuses. However, the types of tests you undergo depend on various factors like your gender, age, lifestyle, genetic factors and family history. Some screening tests apply to a large segment of a particular population due to their prevalence among the group. For instance, colorectal cancer screening is recommended to all adults above the age of 50. Others are targeted toward a subset of the population, e.g., blood tests and ultrasound scans for pregnant women, or kidney function tests for those with diabetes. 

2. What Are The Benefits of Health Screening?

You may ask, ‘If I feel fine, why should I go for a health check? Am I asking for more problems?’ Indeed, health screening is designed to uncover your health risks or health issues even when you feel perfectly fine and do not exhibit any symptoms. However, instead of seeing health screening as opening a Pandora's box, we should understand that any hidden health issues we have are unlikely to go away by themselves without intervention. If left undetected and unmanaged, there is an increased chance that it will reach a complicated stage when treatment is less effective and more costly.

Here are the benefits of having a health screening done:

  • Screening helps detect a problem early before any symptom begins to occur.
  • Finding out about a health issue early allows treatment to be more effective.
  • Disease caught at its early stages helps limit extra healthcare costs associated with the treatment of complicated conditions. In some cases such as diabetes, abdominal aortic aneurysms, breast cancer, cervical cancer, early detection can prevent devastating  complications, including death. In this sense, health screening is an investment you make to your own health that will pay back later. 
  • It helps you make informed decisions about your health when you find out you have an increased chance of getting the disease.
  • It helps you stay up-to-date on preventive measures, including getting vaccinated (e.g., Hepatitis, Influenza, Pneumococcal, DTaP/Tdap vaccines) and making necessary lifestyle changes.

3. Types of Screening Tests

In Singapore, health screening services are often presented as packages in order to make it available to a wider population. To select the most suitable package, it is important to understand the types of screening tests that are included. Below are the common components of a health screening program: 

  • General examination: height, weight, blood pressure measurement, etc. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) will be calculated from height and weight, helping to identify obesity and obesity-related diseases. Blood pressure readings can indicate hypertension risk. However, confirmation of a high blood pressure diagnosis may require further examination and multiple readings. Learn more about how high blood pressure is diagnosed here
  • Blood tests: Laboratory examination of blood samples can reveal blood disorders and how well the various organs in your body are functioning, such as the heart, kidney, liver, thyroid. For example, it helps to detect diabetes through blood sugar level, risk of heart disease through cholesterol level, kidney diseases through creatinine, and certain cancers through tumour markers. It can also reveal nutritional deficiencies that can lead to health problems over time, such as iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests help doctors to ‘look’ inside the body and check if there are abnormalities. For health screening purposes, they may include chest X-ray to check for lung disease such as tuberculosis, ultrasound scans of abdomen, pelvis area or other body parts, and mammogram to check for breast cancer in women.
  • Other tests: An electrocardiogram (ECG) is used to check the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart. A stool test may also be included in a health screening to check for “silent” blood loss due colon cancer, while a urine test can help detect kidney disease. 
  • Other specific screening: This type of screening supports early diagnosis of specific disease, such as a colonoscopy for colon cancer, Pap smears for cervical cancer, Bones Mineral Density (BMD) test for osteoporosis. 
  • Doctor consultation: During the consultation, a doctor will discuss your family and health history with you, do a physical examination, discuss the results, and recommend follow-up actions if necessary. 

Ninkatec_health screening_types of screening tests

4. General Health Screening vs Specific Screening

The difference between a general health screening and a specific or diagnostic screening lies in the purpose of the test. A specific or diagnostic screening is done to investigate a particular concern to determine the absence or presence of a disease. In children, a specific test is developmental screening to identify growth problems. A general health screening test, on the other hand, is used to detect common diseases early, especially for asymptomatic individuals with average risk. 

Diagnostic tests can be carried out in the following scenarios: 

  • As a follow-up to findings of abnormalities discovered in a general health screening
  • To investigate the presence or risk of developing certain diseases in high-risk individuals
  • To confirm the diagnosis of a condition based on presented symptoms

5. Where Should You Go For Health Screening?

Primary care clinics that offer health check service are your first point of care. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider regarding the right timing and frequency of all medical screenings based on your sex, age, medical history, overall health and any personal health concerns. 

It is advisable to ask for a health screening report and keep a copy, even if results are normal. The results can be handy as a benchmark for your next medical check-up or provide references for your doctor at the next visit. Maintaining a regular health care provider also helps the doctor to follow up with changes in your health over the years, which could help with better and effective healthcare for you. 

6. How Often Should You Go For Health Screening?

Screening recommendations vary based on age, gender, current health status, your personal and family health history and other risk factors. It is essential to discuss your screening options with your doctor, but here are the basic guidelines

  • Once every two years if you are under the age of 40
  • Once a year when you turn 40
  • Specific screening for high-risk diseases: type of screening and frequency as recommended for your gender and age group (see the next section on screening by age)

The above general guides apply to individuals whose past clinical values are within range and personal and family health history remains constant. However, more regular screening might be necessary if your personal health risk factors change or a past screening indicates risks. 

For instance, you should go for screening annually if your clinical values (BMI, cholesterol, etc.) are not in the normal range even if you are under 40. This is to track your progress to know if you are making lifestyle changes to reduce your risks of developing obesity and cardiovascular related disease. As another example, if you are at a high risk of developing a chronic disease like diabetes due to family history and dietary habits, you should visit your doctor more frequently, irrespective of your age. 

A type of health check called premarital screening is usually done when couples are about to get married. Knowing your intended partner’s health status implies you are taking accountability to ensure a healthy start for your marriage. Here are some of the medical tests to be carried out before marriage:

  • Blood group compatibility test 
  • STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) like gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia. 
  • Hepatitis A, B, C
  • Urinalysis to rule out kidney dysfunction
  • Thalassaemia Screen

7. Screening by Age

Here is a typical guideline for the screening by age groups for people of average risk.

  • Men & Women under 40: Obesity, Hep B (for those with family history of Hepatitis B or those with at-risk behaviours). 
  • Men & Women 40-49: Same as those under 40 and high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes mellitus. 
  • Men 50+: Same as those 40-49 plus colorectal cancer.
  • Women 50+: Same as those 40-49 plus  cervical cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis for those at risk.
  • For syphilis, HIV, gonorrhoea and chlamydia, one should see a doctor for screening after exposure.
  • Cervical cancer screening is tailored for women who have had sexual intercourse.

Ninkatec_health screening recommendations by age

8. What Is a Risk Factor? 

We mentioned risk factors and individuals with different risk levels above. What do these terms mean and how do you know your risk level? 

A risk factor is a health-related aspect that increases your chances of developing a disease. For instance, in Singapore, colorectal cancer screening is recommended every 5 to 10 years for individuals without any risk factors from the age of 50. However, having a first degree relative with colorectal cancer before the age 60, or personal history of colorectal polyps, colorectal malignancy, or personal ovarian or endometrial cancer puts an individual at higher risk. These individuals are recommended to go for colorectal cancer screening from the age of 40 or even earlier, and in some cases, may need to have it done as often as annually. 

Different conditions have different risk factors. Generally speaking, they include:

  • Modifiable risk factors, i.e., things you can take measures to change, such as dietary habits, physical activity, smoking, drinking and other lifestyle habits
  • Nonmodifiable risk factors, i.e., things you do not have control over, such as age, gender, genetics, family history, or existing conditions you already have.

By managing modifiable risk factors, you can lower your risk of developing or making certain diseases worse. It is best to discuss your risk factor with your doctors.

9. Reading Health Screening Reports

Medical reports can be complex to read. Below are explanations of common terminologies you may encounter in the description of a health screening package or report. 

  • Haematology Profile helps detect underlying blood disorders such as anaemia, leukaemia and bleeding issues.
  • Renal Profile assesses your kidney function.
  • Diabetic Profile measures your fasting blood glucose to detect diabetes.
  • Bone/Joint Profile assesses the levels of calcium, phosphate and uric acid (for gout).
  • Lipid Profile measures the cholesterol levels of LDL (“bad cholesterol”), HDL (“good cholesterol”) and Triglycerides. Abnormal lipid profile is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Liver Profile measures the enzymes in your liver which may indicate any underlying inflammation of the liver due to certain diseases.
  • Thyroid Studies measures your thyroid hormones which help to indicate whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally.
  • Hepatitis Profile assesses your immunity to Hepatitis A and B.
  • Tumour Markers may help to detect early cancer. There are specific tumour markers for different types of cancer:
    • AFP (liver)
    • CEA (colon, lung)
    • Ca19.9 (pancreas)
    • Ca125 (ovary)
    • Ca15.3 (breast)
    • PSA (prostate)
  • STD Test screens for underlying sexually transmitted infection.
  • Stool Test assesses for the presence of occult (“hidden”) blood in the stool which may indicate underlying colon cancer.
  • Urine Test screens for urine infection. The presence of protein or blood in the urine may indicate underlying kidney disease.

10. Takeaway Message

One reason people are apprehensive about going for regular medical check-ups is the fear of getting diagnosed with something scary. But as we have discussed in this article, the benefits clearly outweigh the concern. Your health is precious and getting a health screening is one of the best investments you can make into maintaining good health. 

We hope the article addresses your top of mind questions about health check. Learn more about the health screening packages we provide at Charazoi Medical Clinic. As a Healthier SG clinic, we also provide screenings under the Screen for Life program at subsidised rates. Consult us via chat below if you have questions or specific needs to be addressed in your medical checkup.


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