Milestone health checks

Your doctor won’t always tell you when it’s time to start getting tested, so it’s important that you know these milestone health checks and when you should have them.

Mammogram
Who should get tested? Women
What age should I start? 50
Is it government funded? Yes
Women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer should talk to their doctor about breast checks. If you aren’t in the ‘high-risk’ category for breast cancer you should have your first breast cancer screening mammogram when you turn 50, and then again every two years until you turn 70. Your doctor can also show you how to perform self-checks in-between mammograms. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, or if you have a doctor’s referral, Medicare will cover some or all of the cost of breast cancer screening. For more information visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Prostate Cancer
Who should get tested? Men
What age should I start? 50
Is it government funded? Yes
Men over 50 should talk to their doctor about prostate cancer screening. Your doctor may recommend having an annual examination, and if you have a family history of any type of cancer you definitely need to look at having regular tests. The blood test used to screen for prostate cancer, called a PSA test, is covered by Medicare. To find out more visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

Faecal occult blood test (FOBT)
Who should get tested? Men & women
What age should I start? 50
Is it government funded? Yes
The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is used to check for bowel cancer. It uses chemicals to check a stool sample for blood. A positive result could suggest polyps in the bowel, and is usually followed up with a colonoscopy. If you are over 50 you should be having the FOBT every two years. If you have a family history of bowel cancer you may need to talk to your doctor about starting testing earlier, and including a colonoscopy every five years. If you are turning 50, 65 or 70 between now and the end of 2014 the government should offer you a free FOBT. To read more about bowel cancer visit Bowel Cancer Australia.

Click NEXT to find out when you should start having eye checks, bone density tests and type 2 tests
Type 2 diabetes
Who should get tested? Men & women
What age should I start? 50
Is it government funded? Yes
The fasting blood sugar level test is a test that measures the amount of glucose in the blood after you haven’t eaten for a while. Depending on your risk level you should be having this test for type 2 diabetes once a year or every three years. You are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are obese, have high blood pressure, have had an angina, heart attack or stroke, have polycystic ovarian syndrome or have a history of type 2 diabetes. Medicare offers a rebate for the fasting blood sugar level test. You can find out more at the Diabetes Australia website, or look up your state-specific diabetes foundation.

Eye check
Who should get tested? Men & women
What age should I start? 50, more frequently after 65
Is it government funded? Yes
If you aren’t already getting regular eye examinations then it’s time to start. Having your eyes tested isn’t just about eyesight. An optometrist will also check for eye conditions such as glaucoma, where pressure builds up inside the eyeball. You are at higher risk for glaucoma if you have diabetes, prior eye injury, high blood pressure, use steroids or if you have a family history of glaucoma. Women aged between 50 and 65 you should be having a general eye examination every two years and men every five years. Everyone over 65 you should be having yearly checkups. Medicare offers rebates for eye-checks performed by registered optometrists. To read more about glaucoma visit Glaucoma Australia, or call your local optometrist and book in for an eye check.

Bone density
Who should get tested? Men & especially women
When should I start? 65 or menopause
Is it government funded? Yes
Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, but menopause poses a significant risk to bone loss. All menopausal women, or women over 65, should have a bone density test, and men aged 65 to 75 should seriously consider having one. The bone density test involves a simple x-ray, and depending on the results your doctor will advise you on whether you need another one in the future. You can get a Medicare rebate for bone density testing if you meet one of many criteria—e.g. if you are over 70 years of age or have been previously diagnosed with osteoporosis. For more information visit the Osteoporosis Australia website.



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