Your Annual Checkup Checklist
There are a variety of other topics you should consider discussing with your primary care physician.Learn More >
Defined: A breast cancer screening recommended for women after a certain age and/or depending on family history. Since guidelines differ, talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
Why it seems scary: For a “non-invasive” test, it’s pretty…personal. And the thought of compressing breast tissue between two plates sounds more than a little intimidating.
Dr. Hsiung breaks it down: The reality is that breast cancer is highly treatable in its early stages—and mammograms are typically extremely effective in detection and saving lives. The compression is only for about 30 seconds at a time while x-ray images are taken from different angles; the whole test should take no longer than 20-30 minutes total.
Defined: An important colon cancer screening procedure that’s recommended once every 10 years (provided there are no abnormalities), starting at age 50. The colonoscopy takes about an hour, and most centers will keep you for an additional hour or so in recovery.
Why it seems scary: A long, flexible, tubular instrument with a tiny camera on the end is inserted…into the rectum. And before THAT can happen, patients must go through a bowel prep involving a restricted diet and a prescribed laxative.
Dr. Hsiung breaks it down: Yes, you can expect to have frequent bowel movements during the prep and that is probably not how you want to spend a day off from work. Just remember this part of the process is crucial so everything can be fully visualized. (Think of it as one of those trendy cleanses everyone is talking about!) During the colonoscopy itself, you are completely sedated, so it’s painless and you’re unaware of what’s happening—although closely monitored by the anesthesiologist and gastroenterologist the entire time.
Defined: Spots, marks or growths on the skin that can appear or change over time. Abnormal moles with certain characteristics may indicate skin cancer.
Why it seems scary: Skin cancer!
Dr. Hsiung breaks it down: With age and sun exposure, new moles or growths will occasionally appear on the skin, which can be normal—but with so much heightened awareness around cancer, specifically melanoma, it’s easy to get worried. Keep in mind that only about 10-20% of diagnosed melanomas are thought to have cropped up in association with a preexisting abnormal mole. Also: while we worry most about melanoma, because it is the most fatal form of skin cancer and seems to be increasing faster in prevalence, when detected early it is generally curable with surgery or other treatments. Although that is all reassuring, it’s important to still pay attention to suspicious lesions and bring them to your doctor’s attention in a timely manner, especially because people with atypical moles have anywhere from a 3- to 20-fold increased risk of developing malignant melanoma later.
Defined: A cough is your body’s reflex to protect against things that irritate the throat and airways; often a dominant symptom in a respiratory infection such as a cold.
Why it seems scary: When a cough drags on…and on…after an illness, patients wonder if the medication didn’t work, if they’re still sick or maybe it’s a sign of something serious.
Dr. Hsiung breaks it down: A lingering cough after you’ve had a cold can be very annoying but it’s a normal reflex. A viral chest cold (acute bronchitis), for example, can cause cough lasting an average of 3 weeks. That said, if you’re coughing consistently for 4 weeks or more, or having pain when breathing or shortness of breath, you should bring it to a doctor’s attention. They may recommend a chest x-ray to be safe.
Defined: These nodules of tissue are normally small (less than pea-sized), soft and movable, but may get larger and feel swollen or tender when the body is fighting an infection.
Why it seems scary: Lumps are sometimes a sign of something more serious—so it’s natural to feel panicky.
Dr. Hsiung breaks it down: Reactive and enlarged lymph nodes are a normal part of your body’s immune response; they should resolve with your illness but may linger for a week or two post-recovery, going down slowly.
Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or just have a worrisome question on your mind, our physicians are available on-demand 24/7. And unlike that seemingly simple online search, they can offer the full spectrum of primary care, including diagnosis and treatment, questions answered, labs ordered and prescriptions sent to your local pharmacy.