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Tests for Common Diseases

Many diseases can be cured or managed if detected early enough. See your doctor immediately if you suspect anything unusual or have pain.  Do not wait to see a doctor until you have a problem!  Take preventative action and have exams  for the most common diseases.   Tell your doctor If any family member had any type of cancer or major disease.

Test AGE
18-39 40-50 50+
Physical - Height/weight etc,  Tell your doctor anything that may concern you or if you have a relative with disease.  every 3 years every year
A healthcare provider may order a blood glucose test to evaluate the amount of glucose in the blood when a person is suspected of having diabetes.
Blood Pressure   yearly


Skin  every 3 years
Cholesterol    every five years (if normal)
Sigmoidoscopy or Colonoscopy    every five years
Hearing   yearly
EKG   Once
Tetanus-diptheria booster vaccination   every 10 years
For Women only
Breast self-examination

monthly #1

Pap test

every 1 to 2 years, but after 2 to 3 normal tests, continue at discretion of physician

Clinical Breast Examination

every 3 years#1


Mammography   every 1 to 2 years yearly
Bone Density   age 60, then every 5 years
For Men only
Testicular self-exam


PSA   at age 40 then 45 yearly
DRE   at age 40 then 45 yearly


18-39 40-50 50+

#1 A recent study of 250,000 women found that self or clinical examinations did not reduce mortality from breast cancer. It is important to remember that you retain the right to decide what is best for your own health

Common Disease Facts

Heart Disease - Cardiovascular diseases–principally heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure – kill nearly 1,000,000 Americans each year, making it the leading cause of death among men and women and all racial and ethnic groups.

Lung Cancer - 6,000,000 people worldwide and 135,000 in the USA die yearly from Lung Cancer.  A direct relationship exists between the number of people that smoke and succumb to lung cancer.

Breast cancer (Women) - An estimated 182,800 new cases of breast cancer were diagosed in American women in 2000. Breast cancer ranks second as a cause of cancer-related deaths in women, with 41,200 deaths (40,800 in women and 400 in men) It is uncommon in women under 40.  Risk increases with age.

Prostate cancer -  244,000 men diagnosed in 2000 with the disease and 40,000 died. It is uncommon in women under 40.  Risk increases with age.

Colorectal cancer - Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer. Approximately 130,200 new cases (93,800 of the colon and 36,400 of the rectum) were diagnosed in 2000, and this disease accounted for an estimated 56,300 deaths

Skin cancer - Approximately 1.3 million cases of highly curable basal or squamous cell cancer are diagnosed each year. In addition, approximately 47,700 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in 2000. An estimated 9,600 persons died of skin cancer in 2000.  

Cervical cancer (Women) - An estimated 12,800 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2000 and an estimated 4,600 women died of the disease

Diabetes - Affects 2% of the population 


Normal Test Values

Blood Pressure

If the systolic number (top number) is greater than 130 or the diastolic number (bottom number) is greater than 85, call your doctor.  Your doctor can check your pressure or use the automated machines at local grocery stores and pharmacies.

Pulse Rate

bulletnewborn infants; 100 to 160 beats per minute
bulletchildren 1 to 10 years; 70 to 120 beats per minute
bulletchildren over 10 and adults; 60 to 100 beats per minute
bulletwell-trained athletes; 40 to 60 beats per minute


This test is often performed to evaluate risks for heart disease.

Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. But  100-149 is ideal

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels more than or equal to 60 mg/dL will take away the increased risk from one risk factor and decrease your risk of heart disease. Levels below 40 mg/dL add a risk factor.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) - If you have known heart disease, peripheral vascular disease (blockages in the blood vessels of the extremities), or diabetes, your LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL. If you have 2 or more risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL, a family history of heart disease, are a man over 45 or woman over 55) for heart disease, your LDL should be below 130 mg/dL. Finally, if you have none or one of the 5 risk factors from the above list, your LDL cholesterol should be below 160.

Triglyceride levels should be less than 150 mg/d

Blood Sugar

Glucose levels are measured most commonly to diagnose diabetes or to monitor adequacy of diabetic control. 

Blood Sugar normal values   64 to 126 mg/dl

PSA (test for Prostate cancer)

see Blood Test.  Your doctor will call you in a few days with the result.  

Most men have a PSA that increases with age.  If your PSA is higher than the range in the table below for your age group, your doctor will recommend further testing e.g. "Percent free" PSA blood test or Biopsy.


PSA Range









PSA velocity: Even when the PSA value isn't that high, a high PSA velocity suggests that a cancer may be present, and a biopsy should be considered. The PSA velocity is not a separate test. It is the change in PSA values over time.  You should therefore keep each test result and compare the results.  

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Blood Pressure

The blood pressure is usually taken while the person is seated with the arm resting on a table and slightly bent so that the arm is at the same level as the heart. The upper arm needs to be bare (with the sleeves rolled up, but not tight or uncomfortable).

To perform the blood pressure measurement, the blood pressure cuff is wrapped snugly around the upper arm and positioned so that the lower edge of the cuff is 1 inch above the bend of the elbow. The cuff is inflated and the pressure readings taken. The procedure may be repeated 2 or more times.


The doctor (dermatologists preferable)  will examine your entire body, including back, buttocks, genitals, soles of the feet, scalp, and underarms. Suspect moles include those with uneven borders, more than one color, an asymmetrical shape, a diameter that's bigger than a pencil eraser, or any that have changed since your last visit.

Self test

Start by looking at your face and scalp in a mirror. Use a  blow dryer to get a good look at your scalp. Next focus on your hands, fingernails, elbows, arms and underarms. Now examine your neck, chest, torso and under your breasts, then use a hand mirror to look at your back, shoulders, back of your neck, buttocks and legs in a full-length mirror. Finally, sit down and closely look at your legs and feet -- especially the soles, heels and toenails. Use a hand mirror to examine your genitals.
If you find any abnormalities, see your doctor as soon as possible.


You will be given a kit to be used for collecting stool samples for the test. This kit should be kept in the bathroom at home. Use one of the small wooden sticks from the kit to collect a sample of stool. Apply the sample to the correct space on the sampling slide. Repeat for two more days or two more bowel movements as directed by your doctor. Cover the slides and store them away from heat, light, and strong chemicals.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy (SIG-moy-DAH-skuh-pee) enables the physician to look at the inside of the large intestine from the rectum through the last part of the colon, called the sigmoid or descending colon. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is not sufficient to detect polyps or cancer in the ascending or transverse colon (two-thirds of the colon).

For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. The physician will insert a short, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a sigmoidoscope (sig-MOY-duh-skope). The scope transmits an image of the inside of the rectum and colon, so the physician can carefully examine the lining of these organs. The scope also blows air into these organs, which inflates them and helps the physician see better.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy takes 10 to 20 minutes. During the procedure, you might feel pressure and slight cramping in your lower abdomen. You will feel better afterward when the air leaves your colon.


Colonoscopy (koh-luh-NAH-skuh-pee) lets the physician look inside your entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. The procedure is used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. 

For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the exam. The physician will insert a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a colonoscope. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the colon, so the physician can carefully examine the lining of the colon. The scope bends, so the physician can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the physician move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which inflates the colon and helps the physician see better.

Colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes. The sedative and pain medicine should keep you from feeling much discomfort during the exam. You will need to remain at the endoscopy facility for 1 to 2 hours until the sedative wears off.


A test that records the electrical activity of the heart.  You are asked to lie down, and electrodes are affixed to each arm, leg, and the chest. This requires cleaning the site and, if necessary. The standard number of leads attached is 12 to 15 for a "diagnostic" ECG, but may be as few as 3 to 5 for a "monitoring" ECG.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

During this examination, a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for any irregular or abnormally firm area that might be a cancer. The exam causes no pain and only takes a short time.


see Blood Test below

Testicular cancer (Men)

Examine testicles as part of a phsyical/cancer-related checkup or can be done at home. If done at home, the test is best performed after a shower or bath so that the scrotal muscles are warm and relaxed. Place your right leg on an elevated surface about chair height. Gently feel your scrotal sac until you find the right testicle. Firmly and gently roll the testicle between the thumb and fingers to examine the surface. Repeat the procedure with your left leg elevated to examine your left testicle. If a small hard lump (like a pea) or an enlarged testicle is found, consult the health care provider immediately.  Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men between 15 and 35 years of age.

PSA (test for Prostate cancer) (Men)

see Blood Test below.  Your doctor will call you in a few days with the result.  

Breast Examination - Clinical/Self (Women)

The best time is right after your period and at the same time each month. If you have irregular periods, you should do the self-exam on the same day of every month.  Monthly breast self-exams should always include: visual inspection (with and without a mirror) to note any changes in contour or texture; and manual inspection in standing and reclining positions to note any unusual lumps or thicknesses.  Ask your health care specialist on the correct procedure.

Mamogram (Women)

You stand in front of an x-ray machine. The person who takes the x-rays places your breast between two plastic plates. The plates press your breast and make it flat. You will feel pressure on your breasts for a few seconds. This may be uncomfortable for you, but the flatter your breasts, the better the picture. You will have two pictures taken of each breast. The whole thing takes only a few minutes.

PAP Test (Women)

You will be asked to lie on your back with your feet in the stirrups. A pelvic examination will be done, and a speculum (an instrument used to open the walls of the vaginal canal in order to examine the interior) will be inserted into your vagina and opened slightly. A sample of cells from the outside and the canal of the cervix is taken by gently scraping the outside of the cervix with a wooden or plastic spatula, then inserting a small brush that looks like a pipe cleaner into the canal. The cells are placed on a glass slide and sprayed with a fixative, or put in a bottle containing a preservative, then sent to the lab for examination.


Blood Test

Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and a tourniquet (an elastic band) or blood pressure cuff is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins below the tourniquet to distend (fill with blood). A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the tourniquet is removed to restore circulation and prevent a hematoma (bruising). Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.


DRE = digital rectal examination; FOBT = fecal occult blood testing; Pap = Papanicolaou; PSA = prostate-specific antigen.