"Eat well and exercise” is great advice, but to fully monitor your health, follow the recommendations for routine tests and see key doctors regularly.

How frustrating is it when clients neglect to follow your instructions? Instead of using professional products to keep their hair in good shape, they sit in your chair unable to hide the evidence that they’ve been abusing their hair. If they would at least come in regularly for a deep-conditioning treatment, you could reverse most of the damage, but apparently this is low on their priority list.

Change “client” to “patient” and apply it to yourself. Are you a doc-tor’s nightmare because you neglect to follow recommendations and get the health services you’ve been advised to get? If so, you’re putting your health at risk.

“Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start,” states the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. “They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life."

Even with good intentions, you might find money or time to be a hurdle in scheduling regular tests and checkups. Maybe you feel you can’t afford health insurance, or your co-pay is high enough to discourage you to make appointments. Time away from work is unpaid time. You might have a full book at the salon plus a family, which leaves you with little leisure time to pursue fun activities, much less motivate you to sit in a sterile room wearing paper clothing.

Salon owner Laurie Haney was good about getting regular mammograms. Now 48, Haney was only 37 when she had her first mammogram so that future mammograms could be compared to a healthy baseline. It wasn’t until her latest mammogram that Haney was called back for a second look.

“They told me that what they were seeing was probably a calcium deposit, but they wanted to take an ultrasound,” says Haney, co-owner of Fresh Hair Studio in suburban Philadelphia.  “Coincidentally, I knew the technician who performed the ultrasound. She, too, assured me that it looked like a calcium deposit and said I should come back in six months for a recheck. I went home from that test feeling confident that nothing was wrong.”

Haney was surprised, then, when her gynecologist called and, while confirming the calcium deposit diagnosis, added, “But you can get a biopsy if you want.” When Haney told the doctor she was scaring her, the doctor replied, “I just believe if there’s something in there you should get it out. It’s fine to wait six months, or you can go have a biopsy now. That’s what I would do.” Haney scheduled the surgery to have it removed and biopsied.

This is where a lot of stories turn dark but, in Haney’s case, the medical instincts were accurate: it was benign. All of that worry was for nothing, which is one argument against having so many tests. They produce a lot of false alarms. Still, Haney’s happy with her choice.

“I’ve had so many clients with breast cancer, and I’ve watched that process,” Haney says. “The fear is real. I’m an optimist, and I told my husband he didn’t have to come with me. But when I left the office after the biopsy and I knew everything was fine, I called him sobbing. I guess I had been considering the ‘what ifs.’ I think the big message is just what my gynecologist said—get it out of your body. I feel so much better knowing that it’s gone and I don’t have to wait six months to find out whether it looks worse or more testing is necessary.”

A twice-yearly dental checkup, an annual mammogram, a colonoscopy every five years—when you’re trying to be medically responsible, your calendar can fill up quickly. Think about it this way: the time you spend on preventive measures could not only save you hours down the road from more extensive procedures, but it might save your life as well.

Typical reasons to avoid doctors and medical tests:

 Getty Images/Rafe Swan

You feel fine. Why poke around when nothing’s wrong?
But: With many diseases, by the time you have symptoms you’re past the point of an easy fix.

You’re scared. From fearing that your nagging pain is something terrible to dreading the procedure itself to just feeling shy or generally intimidated by doctors, you can’t bring yourself to face this experience. 
But: Seeing the doctor or having a diagnostic test is a lot less scary than get-ting the treatment you might need if the condition worsens.

You’re a smoker, you’ve put on weight, you aren’t taking your meds, you didn’t see the specialist to whom you were referred, you still haven’t gotten that colonoscopy—whatever you were supposed to do to stay healthy, you didn’t do it and you don’t want a lecture.
But: You know that the doctor is giving you good advice, and hearing it one more time might motivate you to finally change an unhealthy habit.

You get your medical information online. Dr. Google is convenient and requires no co-pay.
But: Your body is unique, and without an exam by an expert, you cannot accurately diagnosis yourself. However, you can use online resources to find highly ranked doctors and hospitals in your area.

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