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Catch Up

Routine checkups you might have missed in 2020.

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Our focus shifted in 2020. We paid extra attention to washing our hands, buying the right masks and social distancing. But in staying home as much as possible, we might have missed some of our important routine health checkups. As we start the new year, here’s a reminder of routine checkups you’ll want to catch up on.

Annual physical exam

Physical exams are a good preventive measure that helps your doctor screen for health issues and find them early — when they’re easier to treat. It’s also a way to set a baseline to measure future health issues against. During a physical exam, your doctor will take your height and weight, as well as your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Your doctor will also check your heartbeat and lung functions, which may help diagnose issues such as an irregular heartbeat or lung disease.

Don’t forget to ask questions. And if you are unsure about a change in your health, you shouldn’t wait until your annual checkup to ask your doctor about it.


Mammography is a type of breast imaging we use to detect breast cancer early, before symptoms become obvious. Mammograms can also detect benign (noncancerous) breast disease such as cysts and lumps.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer leads to better outcomes. Regular mammograms are vital to catching the disease before it spreads and becomes more difficult to treat.

Pap smear

Pap smears can catch precancerous changes in the cervix and are recommended for all sexually active women older than 21. Once women reach their 30s, and after three consecutive yearly tests produce normal results, the test can be repeated every three to five years. Ideally, it should be combined with the HPV test.

Vaccinations for children

Without vaccinations, your children won’t be able to attend school in the new academic year.

In 2017, Pennsylvania changed its guidelines surrounding vaccines and school attendance. Under the revised directives, parents have just five days from the first day of school to have their children vaccinated. Otherwise, they will no longer be able to send their children to public school.

There is a bit of flexibility with this rule, however, if your child’s doctor provides a note that outlines when the vaccines will be given.

Eye examination

You might think that if you are healthy and not having any vision issues, there’s no need to visit your eye doctor. But everyone, no matter their age or how healthy they think they are, should have an annual eye examination.

If you’re experiencing any of the following issues, be sure to see your eye doctor: blurry vision or seeing double; trouble reading signs or books; pain or redness of the eye that doesn’t go away; feeling pressure in your eye; seeing spots or floaters; or loss of peripheral or side vision.

Dental checkup and cleaning

To keep your gums and teeth healthy, a visit to the dentist every six months is important. At regular dental visits, the dentist will check for cavities, plaque and tartar on your teeth. Your gums will also be checked. Teeth cleaning is another aspect of dental visits.

Most patients also go through an X-ray to check the roots of their teeth. This gives the dentist an opportunity to understand what’s really happening in the patient’s mouth. If needed, further oral care is recommended.

If you notice a change in your health, ask your doctor to address it as soon as possible so you can catch it early to increase your chances of successful treatment.

Dr. Dana Jackson is a radiologist at Geisinger in Lewistown.

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