Oct 18, 2022
This week we will discuss the annual medical checkup or annual physical exam. We will not have a guest on this episode but hope you will learn just as much from the discussion based on the research we have done for this episode.
The physical exam is an essential part of any doctor's visit. Surprisingly, though, there are no absolutes in a routine physical. A good doctor may be thorough or brief, but they will spend time listening to your concerns and providing counseling for your particular complaints and risk factors.
Annual exams usually check your:
History. This is your chance to mention any complaints or concerns about your health. Your doctor will also likely quiz you about lifestyle behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise. The doctor will also check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.
Vital Signs. These are some vital signs checked by your doctor:
Heart rate: Values between 60 and 100 are considered normal. Many healthy people have heart rates slower than 60, however.
Temperature: 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the average, but healthy people can have resting temperatures slightly higher or lower.
General Appearance. Your doctor gathers a large amount of information about you and your health just by watching and talking to you. How is your memory and mental quickness? Does your skin appear healthy? Can you easily stand and walk?
Head and Neck Exam. Opening up and saying "ah" shows off your throat and tonsils. The quality of your teeth and gums also provides information about your overall health. Ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries may also be examined.
Abdominal Exam. Your doctor can use a range of examination techniques including tapping your abdomen to detect liver size and presence of abdominal fluid, listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope, and palpating for tenderness.
Neurological Exam. Nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance, and mental state may be assessed.
Dermatological Exam. Skin and nail findings could indicate a dermatological problem or disease somewhere else in the body.
Extremities Exam. Your doctor will look for physical and sensory changes. Pulses can be checked in your arms and legs. Examining joints can assess for abnormalities.
An annual physical exam for men might also include:
Testicular exam: A doctor can check each testicle for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. Most men with testicular cancer notice a growth before seeing a doctor.
A woman's annual exam might include:
Breast exam. Feeling for abnormal lumps may detect breast cancer or benign breast conditions. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes in the underarm area and look for visual abnormalities of the breasts and nipples.
Pelvic exam: The pelvic exam allows examination of the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries. Routine checks for sexually transmitted infections are often done. A Pap test and HPV test can screen for cervical cancer and help assess risk.