Your 50s can be one of the best decades of your life—but it can also be a time where a new health concern seems to crop up every couple of years. And you might know that it’s important to visit the doctor’s office regularly, but keeping track of all the tests and screenings recommended for adults your age can be difficult. That’s why it’s so important to schedule an annual wellness visit with your primary care doctor!
Dr. Martha Sheils is a family medicine practitioner who specializes in providing regular check-ups, screenings, and tests for adults entering this new decade of life. She recommends coming in for an annual wellness visit to monitor any existing conditions you may have, as well as detect the signs of any future problems through the screening tests your doctor will recommend.
In this blog, Dr. Sheils explains what adults in their 50s can expect to talk about during their next visit.
Annual Wellness Visit
Your yearly physical is just as important in your 50s as it was when you were a growing kid. In addition to recording your height and weight, checking your reflexes, and listening to your heart, your doctor may recommend a few other tests and exams, too.
- Blood tests. A simple, routine blood test can do everything from check how your internal organs are working to look for signs of diabetes.
- Medication review. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about the medications you’re taking. Be sure to bring the actual bottles of medicine with you to your exam, including vitamins and herbal supplements.
- Skin exam. This exam is a quick, head-to-toe look at your skin to monitor for any new or changing moles. A full skin check is typically only recommended if you meet certain risk factors—though you should always mention any concerning spots to your doctor, even if you don’t need a full exam.
- Mental health screening. Your mental health is important at every age. Your 50s will hold new life challenges, which can lead to stress or even illness. In addition to standard questions about your physical health and lifestyle, your doctor may also ask you how you’ve been doing emotionally and refer you to a mental health professional if needed.
Colonoscopy & Colorectal Cancer Screening
The US Preventive Services Task Force advises that everyone should receive regular screenings for colorectal cancer between ages 45 and 75. Doctors usually recommend you receive a colonoscopy, which uses a camera to examine the inside of your large intestine and colon, once every 10 years. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to start screenings at an age recommended by your doctor and then every 5 years after your first exam.
Breast Cancer Screening
The guidelines on when patients should start getting breast cancer screenings have changed over the years. However, we recommend that you should start getting your first mammogram at 35, then annually starting at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you should start getting screened when your doctor recommends.
You and your doctor will discuss how often you should come in for mammograms and exams based on your personal risk of breast cancer.
Pelvic Exams & Pap Tests
Even if you’ve already past reproductive age and into menopause, regular pelvic exams and pap smears are still important to screen for cervical cancer, HPV, and other potential issues.
The CDC recommends getting regular screenings until age 65. Depending on the results of previous Pap tests and your family history, you may only need a check-up every 3 years. Many primary care providers (like Dr. Sheils) can perform pelvic exams and other basic gynecological tests right in their offices.
Prostate Cancer Screening
According to the American Cancer Society, if you have a prostate and are not considered high-risk for prostate cancer, you should start getting prostate screenings starting at age 50. Screenings typically used to involve a rectal exam, but these days, most doctors use a blood test to check for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.
High-risk patients should start getting screened even earlier than 50. Those at a higher risk of prostate problems include African American patients and those with a relative who has or had prostate cancer before age 65.
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Other Tests & Screenings
Depending on your medical history, your doctor might recommend you get tested for other health concerns, too.
- Hepatitis C test. Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause severe liver problems if left untreated. Hepatitis C infections can be sneaky—it may take years to show symptoms after you’ve been infected. Depending on your age, medical history, and other lifestyle factors, your doctor may suggest you get tested for hepatitis C.
- Lung cancer. If you currently smoke or used to smoke in the past, your doctor may recommend you receive a CT scan of your lungs to check for lung cancer.
- Eye exam. If you’re overdue for a trip to the eye doctor, now’s a good time to get an exam and update your glasses or contact prescription. Your primary care doctor can refer you to an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you don’t have one already.
Your Health Is Important—So Schedule Your Annual Wellness Visit Today
There are a lot of recommended tests and screenings to get in your 50s. It can seem overwhelming, but Dr. Sheils says her goal as a primary care provider is to help patients manage it all and stay on track.
If you’re ready to schedule a check-up, call (813) 931-3999 or click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sheils at her office in Carrollwood.
About Martha E. Sheils, DO
Dr. Martha Sheils is a board-certified osteopathic physician. Before joining Florida Medical Clinic, Dr. Sheils was a member of the United States Air Force Reserves.
As a family medicine provider, Dr. Sheils specializes in helping patients manage all aspects of their health—from regular check-ups to preventative medicine, chronic care management, women’s health, and much more.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.