Many of us only visit a doctor when we’re sick, but having a primary care doctor and an annual physical is important. Jamee Steen, MD, Ballentine Family Medicine, explained why and addressed some common myths.
Myth: I only need to go to the doctor when I’m sick.
“Obviously, I am here to take care of you when you’re sick, and it's important for you to have that relationship with a physician you trust, especially when you're not feeling well,” she said. “But what I really get excited about is preventing you from ever getting sick. I like to talk about your preventive health – the things that we can do that will keep you healthy based on your individual risks and your individual family history.”
Myth: I’m young and don’t need a doctor.
Dr. Steen said, “Health needs change over the course of a person’s life, so even young people need to have yearly visits with a doctor. There are preventive things we will talk about when you're 20 that are different than when you're 60. My goal would be to keep you so healthy in your twenties that by the time you’re 60, we don’t have a lot to talk about.”
Dr. Steen has been a physician with Prisma Health for almost 25 years, so she has generations of families who see her. “Because I know their family and their risks, I can say, ‘Remember your mom has hypertension and/or diabetes, so we really need to be thinking about this now while you are in your twenties.’”
Myth: I don’t need a physical every year.
When asked about the risk of skipping an annual physical, Dr. Steen got personal. “A year ago I went to my family physician and she reminded me it was time to get my mammogram, so I went to the Prisma Health Breast Center. They ended up finding a very small breast cancer that was very treatable. I am so lucky that it was found so small.
Dr. Steen said that’s why it’s important to see a doctor even when you have no symptoms. “I had no symptoms to make me think that the mammogram would be positive. Early detection certainly made my treatment much easier. I could tell you many instances where lives have been saved by early detection of colon cancer, heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and the list goes on. So, what I want you to hear today is this: Establish a relationship with a physician who knows you and your family history. Let them partner with you by keeping you healthy instead of just seeing you when you are sick.”
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