You go in for your annual visit and it goes something like this: You get weighed and measured and prodded. You see your doctor and talk about your health, maybe get a prescription refill, and most likely a referral for a screening or lab test. You walk out with the best of intentions… but you never get that test done. Sound familiar?
Many of us don’t love the idea of going in for a colonoscopy or mammogram, and even the idea of a needle stick might make some of us jittery. But when it comes to cancer screenings, those tests can mean the difference between a treatable — even curable — cancer, and one that’s far tougher to beat.
How to get over your reluctance
If you’re not a fan of getting tested (and who is, really?), you’re not alone. Millions of Americans aren’t getting essential cancer screenings, and rates are lowest among Latinos and certain Asian groups.
If cost is an issue, you might be happy to know that health plans under the Affordable Care Act must cover most preventive care at no cost to you (no copays, deductibles or coinsurance). If you have a plan that predates the 2010 law, your coverage may be different.
Here are a few simple ways you can make screenings easier for yourself.
- Ahead of your annual, check out which exams or preventive care your doctor might recommend so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Learn more at getscreenednow.org, a project of Stand Up To Cancer and Rally Health.
- Schedule your screenings and lab tests before you leave your primary care doctor’s office. Once you go home you’re likely to put the orders aside and before you know it, it’ll be next year.
- When picking a day and time, think of how you might feel. On work days, schedule your test later in the day and go home afterwards. Plan to take it easy if possible, especially with tests like colonoscopies.
- On the day of your appointment, take someone along. It’s comforting to have someone with you in those waiting rooms, plus they can hold your stuff or drive you home if needed.
- Make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. If you tend to get cold, bring a wrap or take socks. At many imaging facilities you can also ask for a warm blanket and socks.
- Before you leave, ask when you can expect your results so you’re not conjuring up worst-case scenarios while you wait to hear back.
- Afterwards, treat yourself to your favorite little indulgence — you’ve earned it. Go to a movie, get a pedicure, have a piece of pie, whatever makes you happy. Because you did a good thing for yourself.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cancer Screening Test Use — United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. May 8, 2015. [Link]