May 6, 2019 • Longeviti

Finding Disease While it’s Still Hidden Enables Physicians to Begin Treatment When it is Most Effective

Many older people are reluctant to actively seek out preventative medical testing unless they are strongly encouraged to by friends and family.

A good annual physical will routinely include tests that screen for diabetes and heart disease. If the patient is sexually active, screening for STD’s may also be included. Recent guidance from the medical establishment now calls for routine screening for depression.

Beyond the routine physical examination and its associated blood tests, there are additional tests designed to detect and give early warning of disease in people who otherwise appear healthy. These tests can save lives and help limit the severity and progression of disease.

By finding evidence of disease while it’s still “hidden,” these tests enable physicians to intervene and begin treatment at the earliest when it can be most effective.

Which Tests?

Experts can disagree about which tests are the most critical, at what age you should take them, how often and at what point they are no longer necessary.

Here are three tests for which there is strong medical consensus.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel. It runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can be life-threatening.

Causes include:

  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood vessel disease (inflammation)
  • Infection
  • Trauma (e.g., car accident)

The Test: Ultrasound imaging of your heart and aorta

Colorectal Cancer:

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death within the United States. Typically affecting older adults, it can happen at any age. Doctors are uncertain regarding the cause of most cases.

What is it:  Small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps form on the inside of the colon. Over time, some polyps may become colon cancers.

Early detection and removal of polyps can significantly reduce incidence and mortality. The 2018 American Cancer Society (ACS) guideline concludes that there is a “favorable benefit-to-burden balance of screening adults at average risk beginning at age 45.” The 2008 guideline recommended beginning screening at age 50.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Options

  • Stool Sample: tested to determine the presence of blood and certain DNA biomarkers of genes found in colorectal cancers. (every 1-3 years)
  • Colonoscopy (conventional): the actual anatomy or structure of the colon is evaluated by a trained specialist utilizing a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end (colonoscope) to look inside the rectum and colon (every 5-10 years)
  • Virtual Colonoscopy: The physician performs a low-dose CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis to create 3D images of polyps and other abnormalities of the colon and rectum. An improving technology, the Virtual Colonoscopy may have difficulties in detecting or correctly identifying smaller polyps. (every five years)

Lung Cancer

If you are 55-80 years old and a pack-a-day smoker or one that has quit smoking in the last 15 years, consider undergoing LDCT. (low-dose computed tomography).

The Test: The patient lies on a table that slides in and out of the X-ray machine. Multiple images are combined to make a highly detailed composite image of the lungs.

The recommendation supporting the use of LDCT for at-risk patients, comes a couple of caveats.

  • False Positives are possible. The test may suggest that a person has lung cancer when none is present. False-positives can lead to more tests and even surgeries that may not be necessary.
  • Radiation from repeated LDCT tests can cause cancer in otherwise healthy people.

Please keep in mind that the risks and benefits associated with these screening tests change as you get older. Your Longeviti Health physician has additional information on each of these tests and more importantly, their particular relevance to you given your personal medical history and current physical condition.



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