About half of the people in the United States postponed or skipped medical care, according to a May 2020 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Out of that number, about 1 in 10 people said that their health worsened as a result. “It’s important not to neglect regular health care visits,” says Erin Michos, MD, the associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “What we do with our health now will affect our health five or 10 years from now.”
So, what appointments should you add back to your calendar?
Here are seven medical appointments you shouldn’t skip.
1. Cancer Screenings
Cancer screenings, and even some cancer treatments, plummeted during the novel coronavirus pandemic — a decline that could be responsible for 10,000 extra deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years, according to data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
What About Oncology Appointments? If you’re undergoing treatment for cancer, your doctor can tell you whether you should continue with your regimen or whether you can delay any procedures or appointments.
2. Your Child’s Doctor’s Appointment
Even during the early days of the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encouraged parents to keep their well-child visits whenever possible — especially for children under the age of 2, who need to receive vaccines, says Elizabeth Murray, DO, a spokesperson for the AAP and a pediatrician in Rochester, New York.
Another reason why babies shouldn’t miss their well-child visits is that pediatricians need to make sure that they’re developing and growing properly. “If a newborn is not growing well, or perhaps their head size is growing very fast or large, that could be a sign of a problem,” Dr. Murray says.
Pediatricians also need to check on the parents, to see how well the family is adjusting to the new baby and look for signs of postpartum depression, she says.
Well-visits are best done in person, rather than via telemedicine. “You really need a good accurate weight and length and a measurement of the head size,” Dr. Murray says. Plus, doctors want to listen to babies’ hearts with a stethoscope for heart murmurs.
“For a newborn to go more than two months without any type of checkup, that could be potentially dangerous,” Dr. Murray says.
3. Prenatal Visits
4. Chronic Condition Check-Ins
If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, it’s important to keep up with your routine medical care, Dr. Michos says. “Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death [in the United States],” she says.
The good news is that some people can measure their temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and heart rate at home, and keep up with their preventive care remotely, via a telemedicine appointment, she says. There are instances, however, when a doctor may want to schedule an in-person visit. “Sometimes when patients have heart failure, we need to examine them and listen to their lungs,” Dr. Michos says.
5. Blood Tests
Even if you’re able to meet with your doctor via telemedicine, you may still need to get blood work done at a lab.
This may be the case for you if your doctor needs to determine if your medication is working properly. “If people are on blood pressure or cholesterol medicines, we need to get labs to make sure their kidney function is normal and [know] how well their cholesterol is controlled,” Dr. Michos says.
6. A Dentist Visit
There’s a strong link between good oral health and good overall health, says Matthew Messina, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association.
Even a seemingly minor problem — like a lost filling or a chipped tooth — can quickly turn into a bigger issue. “If someone has a hole in their tooth, food and bacteria can get packed into the tooth and accelerate the rate of decay,” he says. Tooth decay, or cavities, can progress especially quickly if the inner layer of a person’s tooth (the dentin) becomes exposed, Dr. Messina says. Left untreated, cavities can require a root canal or crown, or the tooth may even need to be extracted, per the Mayo Clinic.
“By the time it becomes painful,” he says, “the [problem] is already a lot bigger than it needed to be.”
In general, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist once every six months for a routine checkup and cleaning, Dr. Messina says. But if you have a bump or other new growth in your mouth that doesn’t heal within two weeks, ask your dentist to take a look at it. An injury — like a cut from, say, biting down on a nacho chip — should heal within that time, he explains; more serious growths, like oral cancer, won’t.
7. A Trip to the ER
During the early stages of the pandemic, people avoided the emergency room because they were afraid of catching COVID-19 — so much so that ER visits dropped by 42 percent from the early spring of 2020 to the early spring of 2019, according to a report from the CDC.
But just because people aren’t going to the emergency room doesn’t mean that they aren’t experiencing an emergency. “People were ignoring heart attack and stroke symptoms, and unfortunately, we’ve been seeing some of the devastating consequences,” Dr. Michos says.
Reference: Masters, M. (2020, August 18). 7 Essential Medical Appointments You Shouldn’t Skip. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/13727943-essential-medical-appointments/