Annual Checkups Can Save Lives
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Published on September 04, 2018

annual check reminder and stethescope

Annual Checkups Can Save Lives

For years, Avera professionals have talked to patients about the importance of their yearly checkup. I learned personally just how important that seemingly mundane instruction can be.

As physicians, we’re taught in med school that annual checkups are a way to monitor our patients’ family history and overall health risks.

But let’s get to the most important point: Annual checkups save lives. Take it from me.

I get a checkup every year, and over the past four years, I watched my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test score increase from 1.8 to 3.8. Although the result was still in “normal” range, the increase concerned both me and my physician, so we decided on a digital rectal exam.

A nodule was found, and a biopsy and subsequent surgery revealed advanced prostate cancer.

A Learning Experience

Going through this process was quite an education. I spent a lot of time on a table looking up instead of down. Let me tell you, physicians don’t make very good patients. Maybe it’s because we lose control of the process when we go through it ourselves, or because of the jarring change of perspective.

My good friend and colleague, Rick Holm, MD, has said all caregivers should develop and be cured of a cancer each year, and I think he is right. We would be better clinicians if this took place, because as I faced my own cancer, I could see how all the biopsies, screenings and hospitalizations can be scary and confusing for patients. I could understand how important it is to communicate with patients every step of the way. They don’t know what to expect, so they expect the worst.

Expectations and Education

I expected the best. I knew I was in good hands at Avera, with highly trained physicians, cutting-edge technology and compassionate care teams. A robotic procedure removed the cancer with much less pain than I anticipated.

Throughout the journey, my faith gave me reassurance that I was being held in His hands. My family gave me strength and purpose, and the outpouring of support from my Avera family, from our founding Sisters to my colleagues, gave me inspiration. When you realize how many people care about you, it’s amazing.

If I hadn’t gotten my annual checkup, I would be living with prostate cancer. It might have been metastatic by now. Instead, we are monitoring my blood tests. If they suggest recurrence, we have a plan.

Your Turn Is Now

Please learn from my story. Make sure you work with your provider or physician and make sure they are sending you yearly checkup reminders. If you’re not too familiar with your doctor’s annual care plan for you, ask about it next time you’re in his or her office. Leverage our easy-to-use tools, such as AveraChart, to make sure you have screenings and immunizations scheduled.

Annual check-ups save lives. Take it from me. Stay well!

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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