by: Anna Karmela O. So, M.D.
An annual physical examination or a pre-employment medical exam is just a company requirement that must be fulfilled. Others look forward to and consider it as a certificate of a clean bill of health.
Annual physical exams consist of simple and quick but important medical tests. For those taking it for the first time, it can be uncomfortable or even feel intrusive. To prepare us, here are a few things that can help.
• During history-taking with your doctor, you must be honest in answering questions about the symptoms you are feeling, previous illnesses, family history, diet and exercise, smoking habits, and sexual activities. Remember that it is in your best interest, so he can guide you in managing your condition, prepare you with what to expect in your future health, and help you prevent diseases.
• During Physical Examination, your doctor will check your weight and height to assess your medical conditions associated with obesity. Your hair, skin, ears, eyes, nose, throat and essentially everything visible will be examined. It may feel like you are under a microscope but he is just being thorough. For example, he will not miss checking a mole to determine which should be observed or removed. Also, your blood pressure will be taken, while your heart and lungs will be listened to. You will also be asked to lie down so your abdomen can be checked.
• A female doctor usually examines female employees but if not an assistant may be present for the patient and doctor's protection. The same applies to male employees. A patient may refuse examination and decline at any time. These are pointers that the patient must be ready for:
o For females, expect for a breast exam, regardless of age. Skin texture, color and appearance will be noted and the entire breast area up to the armpit will be palpated for lumps and tenderness. She will pinch your nipple to check if there is discharge.
o Another test for women is the "Pap smear". To check the second common cancer in women, the Cervical Cancer. Samples taken from the cervix will be collected and checked for infection and signs of pre-cancer symptoms. 2 days prior to "Pap smear", avoid sexual contact, douching and application of creams in uterus.
o Males will be palpated in the groin and scrotal area to check for hernia.
o Both males and females will have a digital rectal examination (DRE) to check for hemorrhoids, rectal, colon and prostate cancer. A lubricated glove finger will be inserted in the patient's anus to feel for any abnormality.
Annual physical exams should not be dreaded. It must be understood that doctor-patient confidentiality is sacred. Your doctor will make the best assessment when a patient is honest not only during history taking but also during physical examination.