A man going for health screening in Singapore

#1 Health Screening is the Only Way to Detect Certain Conditions

An elderly man talking to doctors about his report results

“Wait a minute,” you say. “I look and feel fine. Why do I need to go for health screening?”

Many diseases do not manifest signs or symptoms in their early stages and can easily go unnoticed. By the time you do become aware of any signs or symptoms, the condition may have already progressed.

Stay one step ahead! Be proactive and take charge of your health. The earlier any health problems are discovered, the easier it is to manage them and the better the chances of recovery.

Regular health screening is vital for overall good health. What’s more, knowing about your health will provide you with peace of mind.

#2 Health Screening is for Everyone

Yes, health screening is for everybody! There are health screenings for babies, toddlers, teens, young adults and older adults.

When we are born right up to the time we graduate from school, we are screened at regular intervals.

When we are babies, our parents take us to the polyclinic for screening which usually involves a physical examination. In school, School Health Service conducts health assessments.

Once we leave the school system, it is up to us to set our own health screening appointments and go for health screening tests.

You can find out which tests are suitable for your age group and gender, under Screen for Life by the Health Promotion Board.

#3 We Can Rise Above our Anxieties

Middle Aged Lady listening to a doctor explain her test results.

Most people usually have some common concerns about finding out about their health status especially if they have a family history of some critical illness. “What if they find something? Will I be able to handle it?” “Is it expensive?” “I need to take leave, maybe I’ll do it another time.” A hundred and one questions may be on your mind.

Anxiety About the Screening Process

When you know what to expect, you worry less. Read up on the ABCs of screening and HPB’s FAQs on Screen for Life, and you’ll be more confident and convinced.

You can also allay your fears by talking to a professional—your doctor can advise you which tests are suitable for you.

Fear of Discomfort or Pain

Tests like the Pap smear, colonoscopy and screening mammogram may cause some discomfort or pain. An accompanying friend or relative can offer encouragement and support, and help you to relax for the procedure.

Look on the bright side — a little soreness early on could prevent worse suffering down the road. Any discomfort is usually brief and passes once the test is completed.

Worry About Bad Health Screening Results

Mdm Tan, in her 60s, went for her first screening mammogram last year, and further tests revealed breast cancer.

Fortunately, the tumour was identified while it was in its very early stages, and surgery plus a few days of radiation therapy left her clear of the disease within weeks.

Mdm Tan says, “I’m glad they caught it at an early stage so I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy. It turned out to be a short-lived nightmare, and all is well now.” She adds, “I now advise all my younger friends that they should start screening once they turn 50.”

Antsy About Costs

When there are mortgages to pay and bills to settle, finances can become a stumbling block.

If so, you’ll be glad to know that health screening is heavily subsidised for Singaporeans at Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) general practitioner (GP) clinics.

On top of that, Health Assist (CHAS) card holders and Pioneers get additional subsidies. (You can find the details at the ABCs of screening page.) Polyclinics also have medical social workers on hand to offer financial guidance if you need it.

Too Busy to Have Time

Maureen, a working mum with two school-going children, knew about the benefits of screening early on, but never got around to it.

Three years ago, an old friend suggested that rather than meet up for a meal, they undergo a health screen together instead. “I always claimed I didn’t have time,” Maureen admits, “but it was just a matter of prioritising.”

She is still busy, but makes sure she goes for regular health screening at the recommended frequency, and has the support and encouragement of her loved ones.

Health Screening in Singapore: What the Doctors Recommend

Screening Mammogram

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Singaporean women, and the risk of developing it increases with age.

Women are encouraged to do monthly breast self-examinations, and for those who are 50 years and over, a screening mammogram every two years is recommended.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

The most common newly-diagnosed cancer among males and the second most common newly-diagnosed cancer among females, colorectal cancer seldom shows signs or symptoms in its early stage.

Men and women who are 50 years and over are recommended to screen annually for colorectal cancer with a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit. The FIT kit is a simple test that detects blood in the stool and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Alternatively, a screening colonoscopy can be done once every ten years at the hospital by a doctor, who will use a flexible tube to examine the large colon.

Cervical Cancer Screening

The 10th most common cancer affecting Singaporean women, cervical cancer can be effectively treated with early detection. Women who have never had sexual intercourse are at low risk of cervical cancer, but those who have had sex may be exposed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended for females who are 9 to 26 years as protection from cervical cancer.

The screening test for cervical cancer is a Pap smear, which entails swabbing the cervix to obtain cells for a laboratory test. The Pap smear should be done every three years, even after the HPV vaccination.

Chronic Disease Screening

This includes screening for diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity — health problems which affect many Singaporeans. A diagnosis will help you manage any condition found.

Get screened for all these chronic diseases together, for just $10 at participating CHAS GP clinics offering Screen for Life. Some blood will be taken, and no food or drinks (other than plain water) should be consumed in the eight hours before the test.

Make a Date

Young woman on the phone making a health screening appointment with the clinic

Now all you have to do to get started is pick up the phone to make a health screening appointment. Try one of the participating CHAS GPs offering Screen for Life, or your nearest polyclinic.

If you find that you keep putting off making that first appointment, tell your family and friends of your intention. Chances are, they will ask about it, remind you or even sign up themselves! You, too, as a family member or as a friend, should do your part to encourage your loved ones to go for regular health screening.

Be sure about your health. Screen for your loved ones. Screen for life.

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