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Everyone knows that health screening is essential - but don't exactly know what it entails ("I'm just going to get a full body check, right?"), what the results mean, and when exactly are they due for a health screening.
Today at The Surgical Oncology Clinic, we ask some of the common questions that you may have regarding health screenings and what the results may mean. If you have further questions, feel free to leave a comment and either Dr Grace Tan or Dr Melissa Teo will get back to you!
1. I’m in my 30’s. Should I go for a health screening if I don’t have any symptoms?
Health screening helps to detect diseases early when you may not have any symptoms. Treatment and good control of medical conditions help to reduce complications that may occur if the disease continues.
Men and women are recommended to be screened for obesity and high blood pressure after 18 years old and checked for high cholesterol and diabetes from 40 years and above.
Women should be screened for cervical cancer if they are sexually active, and for breast cancer from 40 years old. At age 30, women should start to perform Breast Self-Examination (BSE), which can help women detect changes in their breast.
Lastly, colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer is advised at 50 years old for both men and women.
2. What does the kidney function test show? If my kidney is bad, does it mean that I must go for a surgery?
The test looks at the performance of your kidneys by analysing the levels of salts and waste products in your blood. If it is abnormal, there can be many reasons for it - our doctors might need to perform further tests to determine the cause. Rest assured that it is unlikely that you will require surgery for an abnormal kidney function test.
3. What about the liver function test (LFT)? What are the consequences if my results are undesirable?
This test looks at the performance of your liver by studying the levels of liver enzymes and bilirubin. The most common reason for an abnormal LFT is a fatty liver due to dietary intake. Depending on the degree of abnormality and based on the breakdown of the individual factors in the LFT, our doctors will be able to determine the most likely cause of your abnormal test.
5. What is the difference between a liver function test, and a Liver (AFP) Test? Are they the same?
As mentioned above, a Liver Function Test looks at the liver enzymes and bilirubin, which determines the health of the liver. On the other hand, AFP stands for alpha-fetoprotein. High levels of AFP can be a sign of liver cancer or cancer of the ovaries or testicles. AFP can also be high in non-cancerous liver diseases such as cirrhosis. It is important to remember that high AFP levels do not always mean cancer, but normal levels also do not rule out cancer.
4. What is HbA1c?
HbA1c refers to haemoglobin A1c and measures the amount of blood sugar attached to the haemoglobin, which is the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen. As red blood cells typically live for about 3 months, the HbA1c test allows doctors to know how much sugar was attached to your haemoglobin over that period. It is a better gauge of the average sugar in your body. If your HbA1c levels are high, it may be a sign of diabetes. Knowing if you suffer from diabetes is important, as early discovery can allow our doctors to start you on treatment as soon as possible to reduce the effects of the disease.
6. What happens if my thyroid function test (TFT) results are bad?
The thyroid function test, as its name suggests, looks at the function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. It produces hormones which are important for the body to utilise energy, keep warm and allow many of our organs to work well. If your TFTs are abnormal, it is usually either be due to an over- or under-functioning gland. Depending on the degree of irregularity, our doctors will advise you if you need to proceed with an ultrasound thyroid, and if you require treatment.
7. Why are there two different thyroid tests – one of them is a blood test, and another an ultrasound? Am I advised to go for both? What can the ultrasound show that the blood test cannot detect?
The ultrasound is a scan of the thyroid and inspects for growths within the thyroid. You may be required to undergo an ultrasound if you have an abnormal thyroid function test (TFT), as growths within the thyroid may be the cause of the abnormal tests.
Did we answer all of your questions? Stay tuned to the next article where Dr Grace Tan tackles more questions relating to gastroscopy, colonoscopy, mammograms and more!
Leave a comment down below if you have further queries about the process, or the various components of health screenings.