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Important Health Screenings for Seniors

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a volunteer panel comprised of national experts in the fields of evidence-based medicine and disease prevention. The organization is an independent unit that works to improve Americans' health by making recommendations for clinical preventative services.

As we age, and the list of potential complications or health issues rises, the number of health screenings pertinent to older adults grows longer. The USPSTF lists six categories of screenings that seniors should consider. Many of these may already be part of yearly physical exams or check-ups, however, there are some screenings which you may not have considered.

It is worthwhile to ask your healthcare provider about these screening, especially if there is a family history in that area or risk factors that make you more susceptible. Medicare does cover many of these screenings as part of a yearly wellness exam, but it may only cover some screenings after a particular age or in specific intervals. It's important to ask what is covered so there are no surprises.

The categories provided by the USPSRF include screenings for:

  • Physical Health
  • Cancer Screenings
  • Vaccinations
  • Medication Use for Prevention
  • Safety & Functional Ability
  • Mental and Cognitive Health

Recommended Physical Health Screenings:

The largest category is the tests for Physical Health. Depending on other medical conditions that may be present, your healthcare provider may already be looking for or treating you for things like:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes or other abnormal glucose levels
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity

Recommended Cancer screenings for seniors include looking for signs of breast, colorectal, cervical or lung cancer. Screenings for other cancers may be necessary depending on family history and risk factors. Always have a conversation with your doctor about your medical history so you can be appropriately screened and tested.

Colon Cancer: The USPSTF recommends screening for colon cancer for adults age 50-75, but recommend against the screening for those over age 85. Individualized decisions for persons 76-85 should be made by the physician and the patient or their medical power of attorney.

Breast Cancer: Mammograms to look for breast cancer are covered by Medicare every 12 months. Unless there is a history of cancer or other risk factors, the USPSTF recommends breast cancer screening for women be done every two years.

Cervical Cancer: Cervical cancer screenings are covered by Medicare every 24 months for women who are deemed low-risk, but every 12 months for those considered high risk. Women who have never been screened for cervical cancer should be screened at least once. However, the USPSTF recommends that women over the age of 65 who have had adequate prior screening (three negative Pap smears in a row, the most recent being within five years) and are not considered high risk do not have this screening done.

Lung Cancer: Adults who have a history of smoking (specifically at least 30 packs/year), if they still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years should be tested. Medicare does cover a yearly screening if the patient meets certain criteria.

Recommended Vaccinations:

Important vaccinations for elderly persons to consider include vaccines for the flu (influenza), pneumococcal, shingles, tgetanus-diptheria, tetanus-dipetheria-pertussis.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it provides a good start for what health screenings seniors should have on their medical to-do list. If you have a question about what Medicare covers, speak with the knowledgeable staff at Evergreen Senior Living. Their expertise can help you find the answers to your healthcare questions. Learn more at our website.

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