What takes place at a typical annual exam?
Perhaps surprisingly, there's no complete checklist for the annual physical. A patient with specific complaints or past disorders may need more thorough checking. However, after briefly discussing your history since the last visit, there are a few basics that'll almost always be performed.
Vital signs tests include:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Respiration rate
- Body temperature
These organs and symptoms are checked:
- Heart – using a stethoscope
- Lungs – also using a stethoscope
- Head and neck exam – checking ears, nose, throat, sinuses, thyroid and lymph nodes
- Abdominal exam – checked through tapping, palpating and stethoscope
- Neurological exam – testing nerves, reflexes, strength, and balance
- Skin – skin and nail conditions can indicate problems elsewhere
- Arms and legs – checked for sensory changes, pulses, joints
Are there gender-specific tests as well?
Yes. For a woman, these additional tests include:
- Breast exam – checking for lumps and abnormalities with the lymph nodes as well as visual changes to the breasts and nipples
- Pelvic exam – an examination of the ovaries, uterus, cervix and vagina, as well as Pap test and HPV screening
Men’s exams feature:
- Testicle and penis exam – checking for lumps, warts, and ulcers
- Hernia – checking for internal weakness in the abdominal wall
- Prostate exam – checking for size and abnormalities
What about blood tests? Are there standard checks?
No. Again, there are common tests that are often ordered, but these are at the physician’s discretion to avoid unnecessary testing or to pinpoint specific concerns. These can include:
- Complete blood count
- Chemistry panel
- Cholesterol test
- Blood sugar test
Along with the tests and checks listed above, there are others that apply at different stages of a patient’s life. These may include screening for colorectal cancer after age 50 and mammograms for women over 40, annually or at a period discussed between doctor and patient.