Published on July 20, 2015

Would you take a test that could save your life?

What’s an hour of your time worth? 

If you spend it doing something that might save your life, it’s priceless.

That’s why James Minnella, MD, an internal medicine physician at Mercy Fitzgerald, advises getting the screening tests you need. Most take less than an hour—and they really could save your life.

For example, some tests are able to find precancerous problems that can be treated. And that helps keep cancer from growing in the first place. “Some tests can spot cancer early, when it’s easier to treat,” Dr. Minnella says. “Others may show you have a condition that needs to be controlled now—even though you feel just fine.”

How do you know which tests to get? “Your primary care provider can help you, and you can decide together,” Dr. Minnella says. “Some people need certain tests at a younger age because of family history. So have a screening talk with your doctor.”

Who? What? When? How Often?
Men and Women Blood pressure Age 18 At least every 2 years
Cholesterol (blood test) Age 20 Every 5 years
Colon cancer (colonoscopy) Age 50* Every 10 years
Diabetes (blood test) Age 45 Every 3 years
Hepatitis C (blood test) Now, if you’ve never been tested
  • Once for baby boomers and people who had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Regularly for people who inject street drugs
HIV (blood test) Now, if you’ve never been tested
  • At least once for everyone
  • People at high risk for HIV should be tested every 6 to 12 months
Lung cancer (X-ray or CT scan) Between 55 and 80 At least once for smokers and those who quit smoking within the last 15 years
Osteoporosis (bone density scan) Age 65 for women and 70 for men At least once
Skin cancer (visual check) Age 20 Every year
Men Abdominal aortic aneurysm (ultrasound) Between 65 and 75—if you have ever smoked At least once
Prostate cancer (blood test) Discuss with your provider Discuss with your provider
Women Breast cancer (mammogram) Age 40 Everyyear
Cervical cancer (Pap test) Age 21 Every 3 years

Keep track of your health

Are you ready to talk to your primary care provider about which screenings you need? Take the chart above to your next appointment, and he or she can confirm which tests are right for you. There’s even space at the bottom of the chart where you can add any other screenings or checkups your provider might recommend.