5 health tests to start 2019 on the right footing

It’s at this time of the year, often much close to the stroke of midnight on December 31st, that people start thinking about their new year’s resolutions. Following a fair stretch of holiday feasting and merriment, more often than not these resolutions involve health.

The idea of starting the year with a clean slate, particularly a clean bill of health, is appealing. We run through five health tests that might be worth considering.

The type 2 diabetes, or HbA1c, test

A relatively new test, the HbA1c test looks at ‘glycated haemoglobin’ in your body, averaged over the last three months, to determine if you have diabetes, prediabetes or healthy levels of HbA1c.

With 1.2 million Australians living with diabetes, a further 500,00 suspected of having undiagnosed diabetes and with the condition projected to grow to 3.5 million by 2033, it’s a real spectre on the health horizon. Someone can live with diabetes for 7 years before any symptoms become apparent, causing damage to the body in the meantime.

Take the 2-minute AUSDRISK diabetes assessment to learn if you might be at risk and need to book in for a test.

The skin cancer, or melanoma, test

Australians have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia, and two-thirds of Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70.

A visit to the doctor or skin specialist to check spots and for other symptoms is your first port of call. If required, the doctor may perform a biopsy to test for any suspected skin cancer.

Bowel cancer screening

Every year 17,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer, but the good news is that bowel cancer is one of the preventable cancers, meaning with changes to diet and lifestyle, the dangers can be reversed or mitigated.

Of those diagnosed with bowel cancer, 93% are aged over 50. If detected early, 9 out of 10 bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated. And in a stroke of further good fortune, the Australian government runs a free bowel screening test program, sending a testing kit to your house, no less, which you can conduct and return at your own convenience.

Cholesterol test

Cholesterol is no good for the old heart and brain, so if you’re over 45 you want to check that out – particularly if high cholesterol and heart disease run in the family. For those under 45, other risk factors include smoking, excess weight, diabetes, high blood pressure renal failure, or being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

A cholesterol test involves taking a blood sample and looking for LDL-C, a bad cholesterol (there are good ones too) which collects in the walls of blood vessels.

STI and related tests

No, young people do not escape testing. If you are sexually active you might want to consider testing for chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhoea, as well as the three H’s: human papillomavirus, HIV and hepatitis.

STIs are on the rise in Australia and often symptoms will be missed. If not detected and treated the health effects can be significant. More detail on how these tests work can be found here.

 

While GPs are often the first port of call for someone concerned about a medical condition, and where test referrals are made, it’s the pathology lab where a diagnosis is determined.

‘There are plenty of health conditions out there of concern,’ says Victorian pathologist, Dr David Clift ‘but the good news is that a lot of these conditions are preventable and treatable.’

‘Certainly, the five conditions mentioned here are preventable. If you haven’t had a test ever or for a while and have concerns, it’s good to know with Australia’s leading-edge pathology sector that you can have a simple test and set your mind at ease for the coming year.’