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 are a busy time in your life. Socializing, working, studying, newfound responsibilities and random adventures can jam-pack your days. But, scheduling a check-up appointment with your primary care doctor is a good idea, even if you feel fine.

But, why, what are they looking for? We reached out to a primary care doctor to find out. Knowing where you stand with your health can be empowering.

Alcohol misuse

When you are in your 20s physicians know that drinking can become a staple of your social life. Physicians like Dr. Rose Taroyan will screen for alcohol misuse through a screening and offer any necessary behavioral counseling or interventions.

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.

STI screening

What follows shortly afterwards is a screening for any sexually transmitted infections. These can range from chlamydia to HIV and includes gonorrhea and syphilis. Some counseling is done to educate patients on what you can do to protect yourself from any possible infections.

 

Tobacco use

During the checkup, your doctor will be asking about your use of tobacco, providing counseling (if necessary) and discuss pharmacotherapy invention (if needed). Pharmacotherapy invention to help end tobacco use may be suggested, including nicotine gum, the patch or medication.

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.

 

BMI evaluation

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
Daily habits

This discussion will determine whether there should be some counseling on:

Exercise tips and activities
Eating habits
Preventing heart disease
If you are a woman and you are either planning or capable of pregnancy, folic acid supplementation will be discussed as well

Hepatitis screening

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

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.

Depression Screening

If you feel down or think you may be suffering from depression, 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:

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things?
  2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?
  4. Feeling tired or having little energy?
  5. Poor appetite or overeating?
  6. Feeling bad about yourself, or that you are a failure, or have let yourself or your family down?
  7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television?
  8. 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?
  9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?
  10. 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 if you suffer from no depression, minimal depression or major depression. This will help your physician identify the best course of action.

Anxiety Screening

After the depression screening is complete, another quick screening is to identify your level of anxiety.

The quiz looks like this:

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems?

Not at all Several days Over half the days Nearly everyday
Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge
Not being able to stop or control worrying
Worrying too much about different things
Trouble relaxing
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. If your current doctor is missing out on some of these crucial screenings, maybe it is time to consider a new primary care doctor.

If you are in the Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge or the surrounding Foothill communities, and you are looking for exceptional care from one of our internal medicine doctors, schedule your next appointment by calling (818) 790-7100.

by Leonard Kim