Health screening involves the use of simple tests on apparently healthy individuals to identify those who have risk factors or early stages of a disease, but do not yet have symptoms.
For many, going for a health screen can be a daunting affair. The apprehension and trepidation of undergoing physical examination and screening tests at a clinic may stem from a fear of discovering a disease they have. It is a form of denial – they assure themselves they are fine while worrying, deep down, that they are not. The thoughts of mortality, or guilt for not taking better care of their bodies, drives them away from attending a health screen.
Some people avoid tests out of pure apathy – this is a phenomenon referred to as information aversion. They do not want to deal with the stress right now and just want to enjoy life. They practise the adage ‘ignorance is bliss’. They would rather not know about a problem with their health so that they do not have to fret about it, hence they see health screening as an unnecessary stress or anxiety.
To others, they question the rationale of scouring for issues with their health when they feel perfectly well. They have the misconception that if they do not have any symptoms, they are in the pink of health and hence do not require any health screenings.
But there are 5 major benefits to taking a health screening that far outweigh the fear and discomfort of taking one.
In reality, many diseases have no symptoms, especially in the early stages, and this is precisely the rationale and basis of a health screening – to pick up a disease as early as possible. A disease is more responsive to treatment when picked up early. Finding out about your health problems early empowers you to take charge of your own physical and mental well-being, and to change your own health outcomes. You are able to take steps to make the necessary lifestyle changes or seek the right treatment to improve your health.
2. Early detection stops an ailment from becoming a chronic disease
Catching an ailment in the early stage may prevent it from becoming a chronic disease. Complications of the disease can also be avoided and hence, morbidity and mortality, as well as healthcare costs of the disease. are reduced. Hence, health screening is our greatest weapon in fighting chronic diseases.
3. Early detection helps contain infectious diseases
You can prevent yourself from spreading a contagious disease unknowingly, especially to loved ones. Diagnosing infectious and transmissible conditions allows you to be treated immediately, and precautions can be adopted to protect your family members and immediate contacts.
4. It’s not that painful, invasive or risky
Patients often assume health screening will be uncomfortable or painful, invasive or involve unnecessary risks. Health screening, in general, is not an unpleasant experience. Other than venipuncture for blood taking, there is no pain involved. Tests are usually not invasive, and carry minimal or no risks. The doctor or nurse will explain the procedure to you, including the potential risks (if any), before doing any physical examination or test. If you feel uncomfortable with the procedure, you have the right to decline it at any point of time.
5. It’s time well spent
The duration of a health screening depends on how comprehensive it is, and can take between 30 minutes to half a day. However, time spent for a health screening is time well spent because it’s an investment in your health.
Health screening should be perceived and regarded positively. It helps to detect diseases and identify common risk factors for chronic diseases, thus enabling you to take steps to protect yourself. It also gives you a sense of reassurance and well-being when it turns out to be normal.
When it comes to health, ignorance is not bliss. Rather, knowledge is power. Far from being scary, the knowledge from a proper health screening is your protection from harm and the best resource for improving your overall health.
Article contributed by Dr Edwin Chng, deputy medical director at Parkway Shenton, One Raffles Quay