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Although caregivers are friends of healthcare, they are prone to neglect their own health in favour of everyone else’s around them. While caring for others, they often forget about their own self-care — including eating well, exercising regularly and going for timely health screenings for themselves. Such self-neglect can soon lead to caregiver stress and burnout, or worse, a serious health condition such as depression, anxiety, cancer, heart disease and more.

Regular health screening is a simple and effective way to ensure the early diagnosis of disease. Early detection is key to higher treatment success and may even prevent costly treatment down the road. As a caregiver, taking good care of yourself will also translate into better care for your care recipients.

Stressed and Tired Caregiver 

The Silver Caregivers Cooperative Limited (SCCL) is also offering discounted health screenings for its members through its medical partners. These include basic health screenings and more comprehensive ones at the caregivers' own homes. To find out more, visit their website.

While each individual will have recommended screenings based on age, gender, family history, lifestyle and other factors, here are some of the essential screening tests. Screening is for asymptomatic people i.e. there are no signs or symptoms present. If a person has signs and/ or symptoms, they should seek a doctor’s diagnosis instead of doing screening tests.

Find out more about the screening tests that are recommended for population level screening in the Screening Test Review Committee Report prepared by the Academy of Medicine, Singapore.

Detect Early, Screen Regularly

Regular Screening

Health screening tests should be scheduled at regular intervals to detect diseases early before they progress. A one-off screening will only pick up health conditions that are presented at the particular time of screening, while screening at the recommended frequency can detect conditions that may develop after the previous screening. It is very important to check the results of any screening and to attend follow-up or further investigation if necessary.

There are a number of schemes and safety nets available if financial assistance is required for follow-up appointments and tests. Medisave social workers can advise on the benefits and claims that a patient is entitled to. Do ask at any GP clinic, Polyclinic or Restructured Hospital for more information.

Related: FAQs on Health Screening

Diabetes Mellitus, or Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes 

Diabetes Mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood. Singapore has one of the highest proportions of diabetics among developed nations[1] with 12.8% of Singaporeans aged between 20 and 79 years estimated to have diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is often asymptomatic in its early stages and can remain undiagnosed for many years. Hence regular and disciplined screening is advised as it is possible to reverse early type 2 diabetes with early detection.

Fasting Blood Glucose Test
Diabetes is diagnosed through a fasting blood glucose test. The test measures the blood glucose level in someone who has not eaten for 8 - 10 hours.

What the results mean
A level of 7.0 mmol/L and higher usually indicates diabetes.

Recommended testing frequency
Once every three years starting from the age of 40.

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High Blood Cholesterol / Blood Lipids

high blood cholesterol

Every day, 16 people die of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) in Singapore and one out of every 3 deaths in Singapore is due to heart disease or stroke[2]. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Go for regular screening to monitor and manage your cholesterol levels.

Fasting Blood Lipid Test
High cholesterol, a major factor of heart disease, can be detected with a fasting blood lipid test. Before the screening, you should fast for 8 - 10 hours.

What the results mean
If your total cholesterol level is between 5.2 and 6.1mmol/L, you are at an increased risk for coronary heart disease.

Recommended testing frequency
Once every three years starting from the age of 40.

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High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to a condition in which the blood is pumped around the body at a higher pressure. It is one of the major risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke. Slightly less than 1 in 4 Singapore residents aged 30 to 69 years have hypertension[3[.

Blood Pressure Test
Hypertension screening should be conducted by a doctor every two years from age 18 and above. Between screening tests, it can be monitored at home with a home blood pressure monitor. You should refrain from smoking or ingesting caffeine 30 minutes prior to the measurement, as that may affect the readings.

What the results mean
You have hypertension if your systolic Blood Pressure is 140mmHg or more, or your diastolic Blood Pressure is 90mmHg or more, or both.

Recommended testing frequency
Once every two years starting from the age of 40.

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Colorectal Cancer / FIT Kit or Colonoscopy

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in Singapore affecting both males and females[4]. Most persons diagnosed with colorectal cancer are aged 50 years and above. A Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) or colonoscopy can help prevent colorectal cancer with early detection of pre-cancerous growths.

FIT kit
The FIT kit is a stool blood test that detects the presence of small amounts of blood (that can’t be seen with the naked eye) in the stools. It’s a simple, fast and non-invasive test that can be done in the privacy of your own home to screen for colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is a procedure that has to be done in a clinical setting under light sedation. It involves insertion of a tube to examine the inner lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum) to find ulcers, colon polyps, tumours, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

Recommended testing frequency
Men and women aged 50 and above, with no symptoms, are recommended to do a FIT once every year, or a screening colonoscopy once every 10 years.

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Women Only

Cervical Cancer

cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the 10th most commonly occurring cancer among Singapore women with some 70 deaths occurring each year from cervical cancer[5]. Cervical cancer is highly preventable and curable when detected and treated early. A regular Pap smear every three years can help to protect against cervical cancer through early detection of any cell changes. The chances of cervical cancer can also be reduced by vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) for females aged 9-26 years.

Pap Smear
The Pap smear test is the best screening tool available for the early detection of cervical cancer and can be conducted at selected polyclinics, CHAS GPs offering Screen for Life, and the Singapore Cancer Society Multi-Service Centre. During a Pap smear, women will be required to undress from the waist down. An instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina to enable cell collection from the cervix and vagina, which are then examined at the laboratory for any abnormalities.

What the results mean
An abnormal Pap smear does not mean that you have cancer. There are other conditions that can cause abnormal cells including menopause or an infection. Attending the follow-up appointment is very important and your doctor will be able to best advise you on your test results.

Recommended testing frequency
Once every three years from age 25 - 69, for any woman who has ever had sex.

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Breast Cancer

breast cancer

More than a quarter of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast cancers, making it the most common cancer in Singapore women. Between 2010 and 2014, about 1,856 women were diagnosed to have breast cancer in Singapore each year[6]. All women are at risk of getting breast cancer, and the chances of developing it increases with age.

Screening Mammogram
During a screening mammogram, a female radiographer will put your breast between two flat plastic plates and compress for a few seconds to take an X-ray. This procedure is performed on one breast at a time.

What the results mean
An abnormal mammogram result does not mean that you have cancer. Nine out of every 10 women who need further tests will have normal results. Attending the follow-up appointment is very important and your doctor will be able to best advise you on your test results.

Recommended testing frequency
Once every two years starting from the age of 50. Women aged 40 - 49 years who wish to go for screening are advised to seek the advice of their doctor on the benefits and limitations of a screening mammogram so that they can make an informed decision. If they do decide to screen, screening mammogram should be done annually.

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While caring for someone else, it is easy to forget about your own health needs. Make time to schedule for your own health screenings because caring for yourself allows you to care for others better. Screen for your loved ones. Screen for Life.

To find out all about health screenings, read The ABCs of Health Screening.


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References

  1. International Diabetes Federation. (n.d.). Singapore [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://www.idf.org/membership/wp/singapore

  2. Singapore Heart Foundation. (n.d.). Singapore [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://www.myheart.org.sg/article/about-the-heart-and-heart-disease/statistics/singapore/75

  3. Health Promotion Board. (n.d.). High Blood Pressure [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/53/highbloodpressure

  4. National Cancer Centre Singapore. (n.d.). Colorectal Cancer (Colon Cancer) [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from https://www.nccs.com.sg/PatientCare/WhatisCancer/TypesofCancer/Pages/Colon-Cancer-Colorectal-Cancer.aspx?p=/PatientCare

  5. Singapore Cancer Society. (n.d.). Pap smear [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/get-screened/cervical-cancer/pap-smear.html

  6. National Cancer Centre Singapore. (n.d.). Breast Cancer [Website].
    Retrieved November 2016 from https://www.nccs.com.sg/PatientCare/WhatisCancer/TypesofCancer/Pages/breast-cancer.aspx