At Providence, we want to help you stay well.
At Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers San Pedro and Torrance, we care about keeping you well. However, studies show that many Americans postponed wellness visits and screening tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Matters asked Joshua R. Chou, MD, a primary care physician at Providence Little Company of Mary, to discuss the importance of preventive health care.
Why is screening important?
Screening exams help us identify problems early on, so we can treat them before they become a threat to a patient’s health. For example, we can identify and develop plans to treat high cholesterol before it causes a heart attack or stroke.
What are the most important screening tests?
The most important thing patients should do is schedule a yearly physical exam with their primary care physician. During those exams, Providence doctors will check blood pressure levels and order blood tests that will screen for problems like diabetes and high cholesterol. Tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms and cervical cancer screening can also be ordered, if appropriate. Other screening exams may be recommended by physicians on a case-by-case basis after considering an individual’s risk factors. For example, if a man has a family history of prostate cancer, we’ll screen for that.
Did patients postpone checks and screening during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes. During late 2020 and early 2021, we did see a decrease in patients coming in for routine checkups and delaying care because of the pandemic. We are concerned that our patients may not be getting the preventive care they need.
Why is it important not to delay care?
Routine and timely care allows us to identify any problems early, before they become serious and require expensive workups or hospitalizations or result in severe disease. As patients began coming back in for care as the pandemic eased, we noticed a significant decrease in their health. Across the country, there has also been a significant increase in deaths not related to COVID-19—such as cancers that were missed or heart attacks suffered at home— because patients waited too long to seek care.
How can a visit to a primary care doctor help patients get back on track in maintaining their health?
Our goal is to keep you healthy. For patients who haven’t seen their primary care doctor for two or three years, we’ll do a full checkup, including blood work and screening exams, and make recommendations from there. We can also help develop health maintenance plans and motivate patients to get back on track in maintaining their own health by following some basic guidelines: Stick to a healthy diet, focusing primarily on non-processed foods, fruits and vegetables. Get at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily. Practice methods of stress control. Seek help for mental health problems— such as anxiety and depression—which have increased during the pandemic.
Screening Saves Lives
Primary care physicians at Providence Little Company of Mary can screen patients for a variety of health conditions. From blood pressure monitoring to breast cancer screenings, our doctors use the latest tests and technology to ensure you stay in the best of health through every stage of life. The evidence-based guidance (see chart, below) details when you should connect with your doctor for common health screenings.
Other types of health screenings
Your physician will recommend other types of screenings depending on your age and individual circumstances. These tests may include:
- Genetic testing for cancer-causing gene mutations
- Mental health screening
- Hepatitis C virus infection for people born between 1945 an 1965 and some other higher-risk groups
- HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
- Overweight or obesity testing
- Vision screening
- Hearing screening
- Memory (dementia) screening
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
Sources: National Preventive Services Task Force, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
For more information on scheduling a primary care visit or health screenings, call 844-925-0942.
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