LA Times article on annual physical exams

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The L.A. Times has an article on annual physical exams, discussing what doctors look for and suggesting that there should be a different balance between the physical portion of the exam, and the discussion of personal history and health questions and concerns. The problem is the headline and introductory paragraphs, which suggest that going to an annual exam at all may not be neccessary. It’s not until the end of the article that they say “Instead of receiving a standard battery of tests, adults should be given more targeted health screenings, according to preventive health authorities. Here are the main tests they should have, and when…” And then they provide a list of the standard things many of which my physician covers in my annual exam, along with things that should be checked regularly if more infrequently than once a year.
If I hadn’t gone to my annual exam last March, I’d be dead right now. No joke. My friend Jen’s sister finally gave in and went to an exam, and doctors discovered a grapefruit sized tumor that she had probably been developing for years. Stephanie went to her exam and found a fibroadenoma that needed to be removed.
I don’t think regular health exams are anything to screw around with, and while I agree that massive tests for things that may not be in your family history are probably silly, I don’t think we should be discouraging people from going to the doctor “regularly.” Let’s be realistic; most people don’t go every single year, but they should be talking to their physician and getting some routine tests on some sort of schedule, at least.
And the worst thing about this is that the distinctions are subtle enough that people are reading the article and taking it as a license to avoid the doctor altogether. I found the article on, and that was the direction of some of the discussion surrounding it.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jennifer Bortel

    About that grapefruit-sized tumor my sister had: when they pulled it out, it was closer to the size of a “small watermelon,” to quote the surgeon. It was benign, and all is well.

  2. Laurie

    Annual exams are so important, even if you just get a blood test and the dreaded pap smear! I postponed my annual pap only to discover I had a cervical polyp AND uterine fibroid. Both were benign, but for some people they aren’t…

  3. es

    That’s crazy — that’s really how my murmur was found, which is how we’ve discovered I have to have the open-heart surgery this summer. I’d agree that exams are necessary!

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