You may have noticed that your routine physicals include a lot more discussion of tests than they did a decade or two ago. Because age is a risk factor for many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and most forms of cancer, the amount of screening your doctor will recommend rises as you get older.
Still, you don’t need to jump on every option. “Just because there’s a test doesn’t mean you ought to get it,” says William Hall, M.D., who practices internal medicine and geriatric medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Be particularly cautious about tests that aren’t recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, or other public health group. The seven below are all rated “A” or “B” by the USPSTF, the agency’s two grades for tests that are shown to be beneficial.
But, for example, the USPSTF rates the PSA test for prostate cancer a “C,” meaning it should be given only after consulting with a doctor since the harms may outweigh the benefits for some.
With any test, of course, you should ask your doctor about the risks as well as the benefits, says Hall. Plus, screening guidelines are generally written for people at average risk of a certain disease. Family history, your own medical history, or other factors might prompt your doctor to recommend a different test or timing.
The good news: Under the Affordable Care Act, any preventive services recommended by the USPSTF with a grade of “A” or “B” are covered by both Medicare and private insurers with no cost sharing.