World Health Day: Screening and vaccination, the keys to staying healthy!
Published Apr 7, 2021 • By Clémence Arnaud
For World Health Day, we wanted to highlight the importance of screening and vaccination. They help prevent and reduce the frequency and/or mortality of many diseases. There are a large number of screenings that can be carried out depending on the patient and his or her issues.
How can we stay healthy thanks to screening and vaccines? What are the different screening methods? When and for which diseases are there screening and vaccination methods?
We tell you everything in our article!
Vaccination is a means of preventing certain diseases or even eliminating them.
There are some contraindications to vaccines, such as allergy to one of the components of the vaccine or an allergic reaction to the first or previous injection of the vaccine.
Some vaccines are live attenuated vaccines, meaning that they are made up of attenuated pathogens (viruses, bacteria) and therefore create a minimal infection. They are contraindicated in immunocompromised people. Examples of such vaccines include the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis (not regularly given in the US), the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine (not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule), the shingles vaccine and the yellow fever vaccine (usually only given to those planning to travel to a place where yellow fever is found).
Vaccines also help to reduce the risk of infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for 90% of cervical cancers.
The routine immunization schedule recommended in the US is as follows:
Vaccination recommendations for trips abroad are not included in this schedule.
Analyses of biological material such as blood, urine or stool are carried out more or less frequently. It can be a means of diagnostic guidance, of medical follow-up, but also of routine examination.
Blood tests are a very common way of analyzing one's overall health. Blood test results are composed of many parameters. Blood testing can be used routinely to detect, among other things, anemia or deficiencies that can impact the quality of life of patients with fatigue.
It can be used to diagnose certain health conditions. For example, the level of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in the blood will reveal a problem related to the thyroid gland.
Blood tests are also important for monitoring treatment. For example, the blood sugar (glycemia) and HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) levels allow one to see if the patient's diabetes is well controlled by the treatments.
Excretions such as stool, sputum or semen may also be tested. Urine tests will reveal illnesses such as cystitis and will assess kidney function. Pregnancy tests and tests for certain drugs are also based on urine analysis.
Mucosal and skin samples (vaginal, throat, etc.) are part of these analyses, as are nasopharyngeal samples taken as part of COVID-19 screening.
Fluid punctures such as lumbar punctures (spinal taps) are performed under local or general anesthesia and also fall into this category of analysis.
Screening for many different cancers
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening to all men and women aged 50 to 75 every two years. It consists in testing for blood in the stool by means of an immunological test.
>>> You can read a more detailed article on bowel cancer here: National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Let's shine a light on colorectal cancer <<<
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the US and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.
Regular breast exams, especially breast self-exams are recommended for women over 25 years of age.
The USPSTF recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.
This type of screening uses an X-ray (mammogram) that can spot cancers when they're too small to see or feel. A mammogram may be followed up by an ultrasound scan. The results of the mammogram will be analyzed by a radiologist as part of the screening.
Women who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer or have a family history of breast cancer should make sure to consult with their doctor about the best type of screening and the most appropriate screening schedule for them.
To limit the risk of developing melanoma, dermatological monitoring is recommended. When checking one's moles, certain signs or symptoms can also alert individuals and lead them to consult with a dermatologists. The warning signs to look for can be easily remembered as ABCDE:
- A: Asymmetry - the two halves of the area may differ in shape
- B: Border - the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and may sometimes show notches
- C: Color - this may be uneven, or different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
- D: Diameter - a width larger than 6 mm in diameter is a potential sign of melanoma
- E: Evolving - if you notice changes in shape, size, color, elevation or any other new symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor
Self-diagnosis enables melanoma to be detected in 40-47% of cases and the ABCDE symptoms have improved and facilitated self-diagnosis by patients.
>>> You can find more information about melanoma here: Melanoma: How do you know if a mole is dangerous? <<<
As mentioned earlier, a vaccine is available to reduce the risk of HPV-related cervical cancer. This vaccine is recommended to all girls and boys aged 11 to 12 years. It is given in two doses, usually 6-12 months apart.
The HPV vaccine is also recommended for everyone through 26 years, if they were not adequately vaccinated already.
>>> Find out more about the HPV vaccine here: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - Why get vaccinated? <<<
Regular Pap tests (pap smears), are recommended for women aged 21 to 29 to detect precancerous lesions and early cancers. If you are 30 to 65 years old, talk to your doctor about which testing option is right for you - he or she may find that only a Pap test, only an HPV test, or both test are necessary.
An eye exam will detect various conditions that impact patients' vision and quality of life. In young children, this may involve the detection of conditions such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) or astigmatism (blurred near and far vision). These examinations should be carried out regularly for patients with these conditions, but also when people experience changes in vision, fatigue or headaches that could be related to an eye problem.
More advanced tests may be performed in patients over 60 years of age, such as tests for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or glaucoma.
>>> Take a look at our article dedicated to glaucoma here: World Glaucoma Day: Let's take a look at glaucoma <<<
For patients living with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension or an autoimmune disease such as lupus for example, regular and adapted eye check-ups should be made.
Screenings are an integral part of every person's health. They help to reduce the risk of developing certain illnesses or of a person's health deteriorating.
Not all screening methods are mentioned in the above article. The screening strategy should be adapted according to the needs and health problems of each individual.
Do not hesitate to consult a health care professional who will be able to answer all your questions about existing screening methods
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