You’re young, energetic, feel great and are up on the latest health and fitness trends, but that doesn’t mean you should skip seeing your primary care doctor.
Your 20s can be a busy time in your life, but scheduling a checkup with your primary care doctor is a good idea even if you feel fine.
To learn more about what to expect during your examination, we reached out to Rose Taroyan, MD, MPH, a family medicine doctor at Keck Medicine of USC and an assistant professor of clinical family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
When you’re in your 20s, physicians understand that drinking may be a part of your social life. According to Taroyan, a general examination may include a screening for possible alcohol misuse. If necessary, behavioral counseling or interventions may be recommended.
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This starts off by identifying your CAGE score. To figure this out, your primary care physician will ask you 4 simple questions:
Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye-opener)?
A total score of two or greater is considered significant.
A screening for any sexually transmitted infections can also be part of a checkup in your 20s. Your physician can offer information on the types of STIs and how to protect yourself from any possible infections.
Your doctor will ask about your use of tobacco and provide information about smoking cessation programs. Your primary care provider can help you assess if pharmacotherapy options to help end tobacco use may be right for you.
Cervical cancer screening
For women, your primary care doctor will offer to perform a Pap smear to test for any abnormalities. This process is called cytology. What cytology means is the study of cells. Your physician is checking your cells to see if there are any abnormalities that may potentially be causing cervical cancer.
Your body mass index (BMI) measures your body fat based on your weight in relation to height.
During this process, your primary care physician is going to do an obesity screening. If this value seems out of the ordinary, counseling will be provided. This is a good time to talk to your primary care physician about physical activity, nutrition and any other daily habits that could be impacting your weight. This discussion will determine whether there should be some counseling on exercise, healthy eating and heart disease prevention.
Hepatitis is something that is easily contractible. Did you know that some people live with it and never even know? People in their 20s can potentially be at high-risk for contracting Hepatitis B since it can be transmitted sexually.
Skin Cancer Screening
The sun shines bright nearly all year in Los Angeles and skin cancer is something many of us fear. Your primary care physician will provide behavioral counseling to help you protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.
Domestic Violence Screening
If something is happening in your life and you have been looking for someone to safely turn to it’s important to know that discussions with your primary care physician are safe.
Immunizations aren’t just for children. Your primary care physician will provide information on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against some HPV-associated cancers. Although HPV vaccines can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers, vaccination rates remain low across the US.
If you feel down or think you may be depressed, be honest with your doctor. Your doctor will likely screen you for depression regardless.
During this screening, they will go through a quick and simple test that consists of 10 questions:
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things?
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
- Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?
- Feeling tired or having little energy?
- Poor appetite or overeating?
- Feeling bad about yourself, or that you are a failure, or have let yourself or your family down?
- Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television?
- Moving or speaking so slowly that other people have noticed. Or the opposite – being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual?
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?
- If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?
Your answers are recorded in between 0 to 3, depending on whether you have these feelings:
Not at all = 0 points
Several days = 1 point
More than half the days = 2 points
Nearly every day = 3 points
Based on these scores, your doctor will be able to tell you whether you have no depression, minimal depression or major depression. This will help your physician identify the best course of action.
After the depression screening is complete, another quick screening is to identify your level of anxiety. Your phsycian will ask you to answer over the previous two weeks how often you have been bothered by a series of problems and requests you to answer: ‘not at all,’ ‘several days,’ ‘more than half the days,’ or ‘nearly everyday.’
|Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge|
|Not being able to stop or control worrying|
|Worrying too much about different things|
|Being so restless that it’s hard to sit still|
|Becoming easily annoyed or irritable|
|Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen|
Your score will be able to determine whether or not you have little or no anxiety, severe anxiety and everything in between. This will allow your doctor to determine exactly how they can best serve your needs.
Understanding what your primary care physician is looking for will help you be prepared for your visit. Remember, both you and your physician have the same goal — to keep you healthy.
by Leonard Kim
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting https://www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/