How important is that annual health exam? Some say it is a complete waste of time as physical exams are not detailed enough exams to find potential health problems. Others believe they are simply a waste of time and money.  One patient of mine said “as for me, I don’t want to know if there is something wrong…I just want to go peacefully when my time comes.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults should see their doctor from time to time even if they are healthy. According to NIH, through checkups, patients can screen for diseases and determine the risk of future health problems. For example, a physical exam can detect a breast lump, prostate nodule or heart murmur. During an annual checkup, you doctor can also make recommendations on living a healthy lifestyle.

Laura Butler was very diligent about having her annual exams. One year she explained to her doctor that she felt tired all the time. That conversation led to the revelation that she had colorectal cancer. For this LearnVest contributor, annual exam and Pap smear test revealed that she had slightly abnormal results leading her doctors to begin treatment for the early stages of cervical cancer which was successful due to early detection.

The point of this article is not to scare you but to remind us about the importance of an annual checkup and the benefits of detecting potential problems early. Develop a relationship with your provider and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel something is wrong.  Who knows? It could be nothing or it could be something worth investigating further.