Periodic Health Exam

Transitioning from "Annual Physical" to "Periodic Health Exam"

Traditionally, many family physicians recommended patients to book an "annual physical" once a year. However, there is no scientific evidence that giving non-symptomatic people an annual “checkup” actually prevents more diseases and saves more lives. Instead of running the same test and head-to-toe exam on everybody every year, we recommend moving to a Periodic Health Exam and more focused testing that takes into account your unique risk factors, your age, your lifestyle, and so on. Periodic Health Exams are particularly useful for people older than 50 years of age. This transition in preventive health care is based on the latest clinical research and expert recommendations.

What happens during the Periodic Health Exam?

Periodic Health Exam focuses on health prevention. Dr. Lee will review your lifestyle including diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and smoking because improving these factors have all been proven to improve your health. Appropriate cancer screening tests, appropriate blood work (if indicated), and immunizations will also be reviewed. Your family medical history will be reviewed to decide whether you need earlier or additional screening. Instead of a full head-to-toe exam, Dr. Lee will perform a specific physical exam based on your current concerns and health status.

Frequency of Periodic Health Exam

While annual follow-up is not required for most patients, some of the necessary screening and review of lifestyle is required every few years for certain age groups. The following is the recommended frequency of Periodic Health Exam:

  • Age 2 to 5: Every year

  • Age 5-18: Every 1 to 2 years

  • Age 18 to 50: Every 3 years

  • Age 50-65: Every 1-2 years

  • Age 65+: Every year

Certain screening tests are recommended even if you feel well

1) Cancer screening:

Age-appropriate preventative screening for asymptomatic patients is recommended to improve the rate of early detection of cervical, colon and breast cancers. Cancer Care Ontario screening guidelines recommend:

  • Cervical Pap test: every 3 years for women aged 21-69 who are or have ever been sexually active

  • Mammogram: every 1-2 years for women aged 50-74 as per breast density

  • Colon Cancer screening:  starting at age 50 or earlier for those with a family member who had colon cancer prior to age 50.

    • low-risk individuals without family history: stool test every 2 yrs

    • high-risk individuals with family history: colonoscopy, frequency determined by the result of the colonoscopy

* The above screening intervals and initiation of testing may differ based on personal and family history

2) Bone density:

  • Individuals older than 65 or earlier for those with risk factors (e.g. history of fragility fracture or family history of osteoporosis

3) Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm:

  • one-time screening with ultrasound for abdominal aortic aneurysm for men aged 65 to 80 (not recommended for women)

4) Bloodwork:

  • Cholesterol level:

    • every 3 years for low-risk individuals

    • more frequent for high-risk individuals (e.g. heart disease, diabetes etc)

  • Blood sugar level​

    • every 3 years for low-risk individuals

    • more frequent for high-risk individuals (e.g. family history of diabetes, obesity etc)

  • There is no evidence that the routine check-up of the typical basic blood test​ (e.g. thyroid, vitamins) in the individuals who feel well can improve their health outcomes

When should you see Dr. Lee in between your periodic health exam?

You should see Dr. Lee if you develop any symptoms (e.g. feeling sick, not feeling right, pain, injured, tired, etc) or if there are any recent changes in your family medical history (e.g. newly diagnosed cancer in the family).

Please click here for more information from the College of Family Physicians of Canada on Periodic Health Exam