When babies are born, parents become used to taking them in every two to three months for health check-ups and their vaccinations. Those regular check-ups and immunizations, however, shouldn’t end when children hit their toddler years. Everyone – no matter their age or gender – should see a health care provider annually for a check-up and make sure their needs are being met, reminds the doctors and nurse practitioners at ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh.
“It’s essential everyone has a physician that he or she sees on a regular basis,” said Rimas Janusonis, MD, a family medicine physician. “You shouldn’t just come in when you’re sick. If you only do that, we can’t focus on preventative issues, such as necessary screenings or making sure you’re up-to-date on vaccinations.”
What’s covered during annual appointments changes as patients get older, but the goal remains the same – helping patients stay as healthy as possible, Dr. Janusonis said.
For infants and toddlers who may see a doctor several times a year for well child visits, Andrew Collins, MD, a pediatrician, talks with parents about the importance of following the immunization schedule to make sure children are fully protected from serious illnesses, such as measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, meningitis, and more.
“It is essential children receive their immunizations. These diseases are still around and cause children to become very ill; some unfortunately even die from them,” he said. “Some parents worry about the immunization schedule, but these diseases are very serious and the only way to protect your child is through vaccination.”
As children get older, they transition to yearly check-ups. This gives the provider an opportunity to check on their development and make sure they remain up-to-date on any boosters they may need from their earlier vaccinations. Health professionals also recommend teens receive the HPV vaccination, which provides protection against the human papillomavirus that has been shown to cause cervical, vaginal and vulva cancer in women and anal cancer in men.
“It’s important that both boys and girls receive the vaccine since it provides them protection later in life from HPV,” Dr. Collins said.
For adults, annual physicals are an ideal time to check blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels to identify any underlying health issues that could become problems down the road, said Alexey Shereshevsky, MD, a family medicine doctor.
“Having high blood pressure is a ‘silent’ problem and there aren’t always symptoms, but it can lead to cardiovascular problems,” he said.
Beyond checking those numbers, well adult appointments make medical providers confirm patients have their necessary vaccinations, Dr. Shereshevsky said. “Vaccinations don’t end when you become an adult,” he said.
For example, Dr. Shereshevsky makes sure they’ve received a tetanus booster within the past 10 years. Depending on their situation, he may also recommend a whooping cough booster – this is important for parents of newborns or expectant parents – or the pneumococcal vaccine, which helps older adults fight off pneumonia.
Holly Hedge, a nurse practitioner, said the influenza vaccine is an annual vaccination everyone should get.
“The influenza vaccine is an important one to get. Getting the flu is not fun,” she said. “It’s a serious disease and when you get the shot, you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re also helping to stop the spread of the disease and help protect babies and people with compromised immune system problems that can’t receive it.”
As people age, health screenings also play an integral role in patient health, said Eric Smiltneek, MD, a family medicine physician. Women over the age of 20 should have annual Pap screens that look for cervical cancer while those over the age of 40 should receive mammograms that look for signs of breast cancer. If there’s a family history of breast cancer, mammograms will likely begin earlier.
“Mammograms are so important since they not only help us identify potential problem, but can also set a baseline in case a problem develops later on,” Dr. Smiltneek said.
Men aren’t off the hook when it comes to reproductive health screenings, he added. After a man turns age 50, he should talk with his provider about screening for prostate cancer. Dr. Smiltneek said healthcare providers take different factors into account, including family history, before deciding to do the test.
Daniel Kaiser, MD, a family medicine doctor, said there’s one health screening everyone over the age of 50 should have done – a colonoscopy, which looks for colon cancer. It is usually only needed once every 10 years after that.
“Colonoscopies are a great tool to screen for colon cancer, and most precancerous polyps can be removed immediately.” Dr. Kaiser said. “People sometimes have a lot of apprehension about getting this test, but it is not painful and you are sedated for the procedure. The prep is not fun, but most patients say that it isn’t that bad.”
Annual appointments are integral to establishing a good relationship with a family provider and a patient’s overall health, Dr. Kaiser said.
“As providers get to know their patients, we can better understand their challenges and provide them with the information and help they need to meet them,” he said.
In addition to a variety of providers on staff to treat patients of all ages, ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh also has on-site lab, mammography, x-ray and other imaging services available. To schedule an appointment with a ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh doctor or nurse practitioner, please call (920) 237-5000.