Wellness Check

Appears in the January 2021 issue.

Dr. Sonal Mahajan Varma

If Sonal Varma sees 19 patients in a day, usually 12 of them are there to get a physical. As an internal medicine specialist at Edward Medical Group, routine visits are key to preventing illness, not just treating it. “If a blood test shows prediabetes,” she explains, “I talk to them about losing weight, exercising 150 minutes a week, and focusing on a more plant-based diet. A lot of times they can get those levels down without any medications.”

Staying on top of health measures like blood work, weight, and blood pressure, annual checkups actually can save patients time and money. “If we can detect something sooner,” she says, “we can easily treat it.”

Edward-Elmhurst Health recommends the following tests at each age group to keep adult health on track, even if you feel healthy:

In your 20s and 30s

  • Internist Annual checkup with blood work, vaccination boosters (if needed), and a flu shot each fall
  • Gynecologist Pap test, HPV test, pelvic exam, clinical breast exam, and STI screening
  • Dermatologist Full-body skin check, especially fair-skinned adults or those with a skin cancer history
  • Optometrist Complete vision exam once in 20s, twice in 30s
  • Dentist Dental cleanings/checkups once or twice per year

In your 40s add

  • Women Annual screening mammogram to detect breast cancer
  • Men Annual rectal exam/PSA blood test from a primary care doctor to screen for prostate cancer

In your 50S add

  • Gastroenterologist Colonoscopy exam every 10 years
  • Pulmonologist Annual lung CT for smokers or former smokers

If a patient has a family history of a certain disease or other risk factors, earlier or more frequent screenings could be recommended. And if you need a referral to a specialist, your internist or primary care/family medicine doctor can recommend another doctor.

Varma says that although many patients like to avoid a colonoscopy, if abnormal cells are detected early it is easily treatable. She sadly recalls: “I’ve had a young, 55-year-old male who came in with constipation, weight loss, and blood in his stool. It was stage 4 cancer that had metastasized. After chemo and radiation, he still did not survive. If it had been detected sooner, it would have been easily treatable.”

Photo courtesy Edward-Elmhurst Health