Are Annual Health Check-Ups Of Any Use?

Comprehensive health check-ups have become all the rage. There is a general feeling that doing a non-targeted check-up once a year helps pick up disease early and prevent future problems.

For corporate chains, health check-ups have become big businesses to the extent that many chains have actually opened out-patient health check-up centres that include “5-star” facilities that we otherwise find only in spas and high-end beauty salons.

The problem of course is that there is no evidence that non-targeted health check-ups in asymptomatic individuals work. Not only that, there is a real possibility of harm, both physical and emotional with such testing, especially when non-important pathologies are picked-up.

To elaborate further. Getting a colonoscopy done once every 5 years after the age of 50 to look for colon cancer and polyps has been proven to save lives. Getting a mammogram done every one or two year after the age of 50, though not without recent controversy, is also known to save lives. Blood pressure measurements and blood sugar evaluation help as well. Beyond these, unless there are symptoms or a high possibility of specific disease, non-targeted health check-ups and packages have no relevance.

This particular piece titled “The 50,000 USD Physical” is an interesting narration of what can go wrong with a health check-up. Coupled with these guidelines from the Society of General Internal Medicine, this article should serve as a warning lesson to all of us in the fraternity involved with health check-ups in asymptomatic individuals.

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