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Why Getting an Annual Check-up is Essential

10/06/2013 13:49 BST | Updated 16/10/2013 16:40 BST
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When it comes to the subject of healthcare, everywhere you turn there is contradictory advice on whether to visit a doctor in person or to try and self-diagnose using the likes of the NHS Helpline via the phone or the internet. The issue with the latter is that the hypochondriacs among us can become convinced that a headache born out of dehydration is a brain tumour quite easily, and it can be difficult to explain your ailment on the telephone to a nurse. But at the same time, not everybody likes to visit a GP or head down to A&E at a moment's notice, and because you're constantly told of the strain on the medical services, the element of guilt kicks in - although not for everybody, of course.

According to Danish research that was published by the NCBI, there is no evidence that routine check-ups lead to a longer life or lower the risks of heart disease or cancer becoming an issue in later life. The medical researcher Lasse Krogsboll, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, said: "the study adds to growing evidence that periodic exams in otherwise healthy adults are a waste of money and may even lead to over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatments."

Try telling that to the hordes of people that fill up the waiting rooms of GP's and doctors' offices all over the UK every single day, You'll have a tough time convincing either of those camps that check-ups aren't required.

Domhnall MacAuley, a physician and editor at the British Medical Journal who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, told Discover magazine recently that more is not always better, and that "Calling for systematic assembly-line health checks consumes precious medical resources--in doctors' time and unnecessary treatments and tests--that could be better used elsewhere."

The media often doesn't help in these instances. Any hypochondriac who watches an episode of Embarrassing Bodies will soon be reduced to a quivering wreck with a checklist of illnesses they now have. But on the flipside of that, how many cancers have been found early as a direct result of highlighting how important health checks are via TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles and radio coverage?

The stretching of resources - alongside the media output of illnesses and ailments that we could all be facing at some point of our lives - makes it very difficult to say "only come for a check-up when it is absolutely necessary". At the same time, there are plenty of people out there who go completely the other way and don't see a doctor at all. I myself have visited a doctor just twice in over ten years, and one of those occasions was simply to have a blood test before travelling. I'm ashamed of myself sometimes, because I know I should at least have an annual check-up just to make sure I'm in good working order.

There are a number of diseases that strike certain age-groups, such as testicular cancer (where 90% of cases will be found in men under 55, and 47% under the age of 35) and breast cancer (with 45% of female cancers being attributed to ages between 25-49 according to Cancer Research UK. In these instances, having mammograms and tests are vitally important - and self-checking is also critical in these instances too, as you look for irregularities in your own body.

When you reach your 60's and 70's, it makes more sense to have an annual check-up than when you're young, when check-ups can take place more sparingly. You don't need to visit your doctor every day, but services like a health screen exist and are a good test for annual check-up. They exist so that we can all live as good a life as possible, so therefore we should all take advantage of the services available and get checked out. Just annually, not daily.