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The health checks to keep in mind at different stages in your life

As the saying goes prevention is always better than a cure. Here are the health checks to keep in mind at the different stages in your life – even if you feel healthy.

We’re all a little guilty of procrastinating when it comes to our health. It’s one thing taking time out of your busy schedule to check out a health issue such as a lump, new mole or weight loss but it’s another thing altogether when it feels like you’re already in great shape.

We’re making life easy by telling you what health checks might be relevant to you, depending on your age. Remember that if you have any health concerns, it’s always best to discuss these with your health practitioner before you do anything else.

All ages

Melanoma/skin cancer

  • Why: Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Whilst anyone can be at risk of developing skin cancer, the risk only increases as you get older. Sunburn causes 95% of melanomas and when you consider that 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 5 teenagers in Australia are sunburnt over an average weekend you can see why skin checks are of the utmost importance for all ages.
  • How often: Cancer council recommends that all adults should check their skin and moles every 3 months. However if you notice any changes to moles in between see your doctor as soon as possible. Check out our guide on spotting the difference between moles and melanomas here.

Dental

  • Why: Poor dental health doesn’t just affect your teeth. Tooth and gum infections can negatively impact your wellbeing so it’s important to look after your teeth. Along with brushing regularly and avoiding smoking and sugary foods trips to the dentist are vital to keep your mouth healthy.
  • How often: Australia dental recommends that if you have good basic oral health you should visit every 6 months. However your dentist will advise if you need to visit more regularly. Plus, as a Medibank member, don’t forget if you have Extras cover, you get 100% back on an annual dental check-up and clean (excluding x-rays) at any Members’ Choice dentist.*
    *2 month waiting period applies.

Cervical cancer

  • Why: If you are a woman and aged between 25-74, you will be invited to screen through the National Cervical program. You’ll be sent reminder letters ahead of your tests and it’s imperative that you attend when invited. This screening program is designed to protect you against cervical cancer. Around 900 women are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer and over 200 die as a result, so it’s important to get checked. To find out more about what your results mean take a look at our guide.
  • How often: You’ll be invited for your first screening aged 25. Women who had a normal Pap smear test in the two years before 1 December 2017 will receive an invitation to attend their first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap smear. After that you should attend a screening every 5 years unless you are asked to return for further treatment. You will be sent a reminder ahead of your test so there’s no excuse not to make the time to go.

READ MORE: Are you guilty of skipping your cervical screening?

Testicular cancer

  • Why: Most common in men aged 18-39, your teens and 20’s is a good time to start checking your testes. This self-examination can be done in the shower and it’s quick and easy to do. To find out what to look for and how to self-examine take a look at our guide.
  • How often: Check ‘em on the regular. If you notice any changes that concern you from a painless lump in or on the testicle, swelling or aching in your lower belly or scrotum make sure to check in with your doctor. Our guide gives you the full lowdown on what to look out for.

Breast cancer

  • Why: Much like testicular self-examination, getting to know your breasts and what’s normal for you is both easy and takes very little time. Breast cancer affects one in eight Australian women and whilst it’s most common in women over the age of 60, it pays to get used to the normal look and feel of your breasts. By doing this you may be able to recognise changes that could be a sign of cancer such as a lump, a change in shape, thickening of tissue and anything else that isn’t normal for you. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, see you doctor.
  • How often: Again, checking yourself in the shower is an easy and quick way to have a feel of your breast and armpit area. If you do this every day it will become second nature and it’s a good habit to get into. If you’re unsure of how to check there’s information here.

STI checks

  • Why: Although relevant at any age, your 20’s is the perfect time to get serious about safe sex. If you’re sexually active it pays to be responsible and make sure that both you and any potential partners are safe from infection.
  • How often: Getting tested is recommended if you have a new sexual partner, in cases of unsafe sex or if you and your partner have more than one sexual partner.

Cardiovascular disease

  • Why: Seeing your doctor for a heart health check is the best thing you can do to lessen your risk of heart disease. Heart disease often carries no symptoms so it’s important to check your risks frequently to ensure your heart is healthy.
  • How often: If you’re over 45 you should aim to have a heart health check every two years. It’s best to make it part of your regular healthcare visits. This can be performed by your GP and takes around 15 minutes.

Diabetes type 2

  • Why: An estimated 2 million Australians are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So it pays to be vigilant about your risks. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity and eating healthily so knowing your risks can give you the push to make any required lifestyle changes.
  • How often: If your blood glucose levels are normal you should get checked every three years. However if you have prediabetes you should be checked every 1 – 2 years. You can also assess your own risk by completing a diabetes risk assessment online.

Bowel Cancer

  • Why:If you’re over the age of 50 you’re most at risk of developing bowel cancer. 90% of bowel cancer is curable if it is found early so it’s important to attend a screening. Around 1 in 23 Australians will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime and Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. To learn more about the symptoms and treatment of bowel cancer, take a look at our guide.
  • How often: At least every two years. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBSCP) invites people over the age of 50 to screen for bowel cancer using a simple home test kit.

Breast cancer

  • Why: Whilst all ages should be checking their breasts for any changes or lumps, women aged 50-74 will be invited for a free mammogram through BreastScreen Australia. Breast cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in Australian women after lung cancer and early detection can significantly improve breast cancer survival rate.
  • How often: Every two years. Women aged 40-49 and those over 74 can also receive a free mammogram however they will have to request this.

Bone density

  • Why: Osteoporosis affects over 1 million people in Australia. Whilst certain risk factors can make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, anyone over the age of 50 could require a bone density scan.
  • How often: Speak to your GP to determine whether you are at risk and should undergo a bone density scan.

Prostate cancer

  • Why: Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Australia and the third most common cause of cancer death. By the age of 85, 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Early detection and treatment can improve prostate cancer survival so it’s an important health check to stay on top of.
  • How often: There is no national screening program for prostate cancer. However if you experience any of the symptoms of prostate cancer you should see your doctor immediately. Prostate cancer can be diagnosed through a number of tests so it’s best to consult with your doctor to work out which will be best based on your symptoms.

Visual and hearing impairment

  • Why: Your hearing and sight may change as you get older and you’re more likely to have issues with these when you are aged 55 and over. Things you once took for granted such as reading road signs or holding a conversation in a loud restaurant may become challenging.
  • How often: You should check your hearing every two years and maintain regular eye checks to make sure you are wearing the right prescription. As a Medibank member with Extras cover, you can get 100% back on most optical items (up to your annual limit) at recognised providers across Australia. This includes frames, prescription lenses and contacts^

^waiting periods apply

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