Do I really need this test?

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 27, 2016

Those of us that follow a plan to maintain good health know that we should visit the dentist twice a year, the eye doctor at least once a year, and if we’re not having problems or ongoing medical issues, see our primary doctor for an annual checkup and perhaps a battery of tests.

Today there’s conflicting news as to whether we need all the testing that is often prescribed annually. The two most common tests that cancer researchers feel may no longer be needed, especially for seniors over the age of 75, are women’s mammograms and prostate screenings for men.

A biopsy for prostate cancer is expensive and can cause infection and pain. If prostate cancer is found, many doctors recommend surgery or radiation therapy, which can in some cases be painful, and may not be necessary if the slow-growing cancer would not have shortened the patient’s life.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

For older women who have multiple medical conditions including a less aggressive, slower-growing breast cancer, testing or surgery may increase the problems, and it’s also possible that the patient could die from another disease before their cancer severely affects them.

According to the American Board of Internal Medicine, here are some tests for the risks of heart disease, cancer and other conditions that impact your life and longevity:

Mammograms – The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 45 to 54 get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening. But, at 75, women at average risk of breast cancer can stop routine screening.

Pap Smear/HPV – To test for cervical cancer women should be tested every three years and the test should include a test for Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. After age 65, if results from the 10 years prior were normal, according to the American Cancer Society, you no longer need to be tested.

Cholesterol – You should be checked at least every five years and far more frequently if you have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, use tobacco, are overweight or obese, have a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure.

Colorectal Cancer – Between the ages of 50 and 75, you should be tested for colon or rectal cancer every year; a sigmoidoscopy every five years and colonoscopy every 10 years or more often if you have risk factors for colon cancer or a family history of colon or rectal cancer.

Depending on your age, symptoms, weight, health and family history, other tests may be suggested for diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, hepatitis C, thyroid levels in women over 60, and levels of vitamin D, which keeps bones and muscles strong.

Staying healthy is your personal responsibility, so getting tested periodically or as needed can make a big difference in the length and quality of your life.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare. Ron is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on

His podcasts can be heard weekly at Contact Ron at 828-696-9799 or by email at