Early Detection Saves Lives – 5 Questions for National Self-Check Month

We hear a lot these days about “self-love” and taking time for “self-care.” One of the most important acts of self-care is performing self-checks to ensure that your body is healthy. If you don’t already have a self-check routine, now is the perfect time to start since February is National Self-Check Month. 

What does performing a self-check mean?

It’s asking yourself questions and performing simple physical examinations to ensure that you are healthy. It’s important to do these on a regular basis, so that you understand what your personal “normal” is and also in order to identify if some part of your normal changes and you need to see a physician. 

Why is performing a self-check important?

Early detection of most cancers, heart problems, diabetes, and weight issues tend to be simpler to address and have better long-term outcomes when detected early. That’s why you hear the phrase “early detection saves lives.” Many people don’t perform self-checks because they think they don’t want to know if they are sick, or they believe that they aren’t at risk for disease. However, the earlier an issue is detected, the more likely a person is to get the treatment that can save or extend their life. Below are 5 Questions to ask yourself so that you can accurately and regularly perform self-checks. 

1. What are my risk factors and family history?

Do you know your health risk factors and family health history? Certain lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic factors can put you at a higher risk for certain health conditions.

Having risk factors does not mean that you will be diagnosed with a disease, only that you are statistically more likely. Knowing these factors can help you to know what you should be on the lookout for and to discuss with your doctor how to take the best care of yourself. They may help you to know what lifestyle changes that may be best for your health in the future.

2. Do I know how to do the appropriate self-checks?

Most people are familiar with the self-check for breast cancer, but self-checks don’t always mean a physical self-evaluation. Understanding your personal risks and knowing the warning signs that indicate you are not completely healthy are important. There are various cancers that you can be aware of to check for, as well as keeping an eye out for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Your age, sex, family history, and lifestyle all have an impact on the self-checks you should be performing. You can visit selfchec.org for more information or skip to step #3 and schedule an appointment with your doctor.

3. Have I seen my physician recently?

Getting regular medical checkups is important for keeping yourself healthy, even if you are feeling well. Annual checkups allow your physician to establish a baseline for your health. Your physician can also help you understand your risk factors and family history so that you’re empowered to make the best decisions for your health.

If you were uncertain about the answer to #2, you can double check with your doctor that you are performing self-checks appropriately, and you can also use your time with them to ask any questions regarding your self-check findings and what you may expect as far as preventative checks in the future.

4. What lifestyle changes can I make to ensure my long-term health?

Knowing your risk factors and family history means being informed about your health risks. While this may seem like depressing information, it’s actually great news because many diseases are preventable. If you know your health risks, you are likely capable of making lifestyle changes that can improve your chances of not getting sick, or improve your health outcomes if you do.

Basic healthy lifestyle habits, like eating well, getting regular exercise, and not abusing alcohol, tobacco, or drugs can contribute immensely to your body functioning at its best. Discuss what changes you can make with your physician.

5. What will I do if I find something out of the ordinary?

Making a plan for your next steps if you *DO* find something abnormal helps you to prepare to take action in the event that this actually happens. 

  • The first thing you will do is not panic. There are many body changes that are not life-threatening diseases or cancer. Do not allow yourself to get worked up and paralyzed by fear. 
  • The next thing you should plan to do is make an appointment with your physician. Do not ignore what you discovered in the hopes that it will “go away on its own” or “doesn’t mean anything serious.” This negates doing your self-check in the first place, and potentially puts your health at risk. Make an appointment.
  • Finally, make a note of what you felt and any questions you have. Sometimes going to the doctor to check on something that feels “off” may cause fear that makes you forget your questions. Write them down in advance so that you remember all the points you want to address. 

Remember that caring for the people around you is difficult or impossible if you are chronically or severely ill. During this month where we celebrate our love for the people around us, remember to also love and take care of yourself by living a healthy lifestyle and taking preventative self-care.