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5 healthcare appointments you should reschedule ASAP

For more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic confined many people to their homes. Many doctor’s offices temporarily closed or offered limited appointment slots. All of these factors meant many people didn’t get their routine health exams or screenings in 2020. And some people skipped critical medical care for issues like chest pain or cancer. According to one survey of more than 1,000 Americans, 78% postponed at least one medical service within the last three months.

If you haven’t been to the doctor in more than a year because of the pandemic, now is the time to reschedule. 

“Rescheduling your exams allows physicians and healthcare providers to discover things that can be addressed, whether it’s prediabetes or cancers that we typically screen for,” says Samantha Avoke, M.D., a Piedmont internal medicine physician. “Once found early, these conditions are easier to reverse, and the patient continues to live a full life. This gives patients better control of their health with no premature death or chronic illness.”

Concerns about COVID-19 safety

If you have safety concerns about scheduling an appointment, Dr. Avoke emphasizes that many healthcare professionals are vaccinated and offices still follow cleaning, social distancing and safety protocols. Telemedicine is also an option for some types of appointments, though you’ll still need to go in person for blood work, a pelvic exam, a dental exam and certain cancer screenings, like a mammogram.

If you’re concerned about safety, call your provider’s office and ask what safety measures they have in place.

Appointments to reschedule ASAP

Here are the healthcare visits you should schedule ASAP:

  1. Primary care checkup. See your primary care provider yearly for a physical or checkup. This exam can vary based on your age and provider. It’s a good time to talk about cancer screenings (like a colonoscopy or mammogram), immunizations and any physical or mental health concerns you have. You can also get your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure checked. You should also see your physician regularly if you have a chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.  

  2. Dental visit and teeth cleaning. Regular dental appointments are essential—they could mean the difference between a simple filling or a root canal if you have a cavity, for example. Most people get routine cleanings twice a year to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

  3. Annual well-woman exam. If you’re a woman, see your healthcare provider each year to get a pelvic exam, discuss sexual health and birth control, get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), address changes to your menstrual cycle or get answers to any questions you have. During this appointment, you and your provider can also discuss cancer screenings, like a Pap test and clinical breast exam.

  4. Mammogram for breast cancer screening. Mammograms save lives and can detect breast cancer in its earlier, more treatable stages. Ask your primary care provider or OB/GYN for a referral if you’re due for a mammogram. The guidelines vary, so your physician can help you determine what’s right for you. You should also let your provider know if you notice any lumps or changes in your breasts.

  5. Skin cancer screening. Now is also a good time to get a skin cancer screening with your dermatologist or primary care provider. Many communities also host free skin cancer screenings in the spring and summer months. Like many other health issues, it’s best to catch skin cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Most screenings only take about 15 minutes—and they can be lifesaving.

When to see a healthcare provider immediately

Dr. Avoke says you should seek care right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramping with diarrhea or bloody stool

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Chest pain

  • Fever over 103 degrees or accompanied by a severe headache, stiff neck and neck pain, unusual sensitivity to bright light, unusual skin rash, mental confusion, seizures, convulsions, difficulty breathing or persistent vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Worst headache of your life, a headache that’s not responding to over-the-counter medications or a change in the character of your usual headaches

“Age is a risk factor for life-altering diseases,” says Dr. Avoke. “As you grow older, it’s a good idea to get screening tests done as recommended. Early detection and treatment give the body the best defense against diseases.”

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