Skip to content

Wellness Wise

The Wellness Guide to Preventive Care

A recent government study showed that more than half of all Americans do not receive many of the important preventive services they need—that is, immunizations, screening tests for early detection of disease, and education about healthy habits and injury prevention. Why not?

How about that annual physical?

It used to seem simple: people were advised to undergo a standardized annual or biannual "complete physical." But in the 1980s, at the request of the government, an independent committee of physicians known as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed all evidence and evaluated the benefits and drawbacks of common screening tests and came up with recommendations. (A similar group, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, does the same work in Canada.) That head-to-toe physical exam has now been discarded for seemingly healthy people, since it yields too few benefits for its cost. Over the long run, it doesn't pay off in terms of better health and longer life.

Some tests that used to be routinely done, such as chest X-rays, electrocardiograms (EKGs), urine tests, and complete blood counts, are now reserved for people with symptoms or risk factors. In other words, they are not general "screening" tests and are not done routinely in everyone (and as such are not covered in this article).

The U.S. and Canadian Task Forces continue to update and re-evaluate their advice, reviewing thousands of studies every year and consulting hundreds of scientific reviewers.

Blood pressure measurement (to detect hypertension)
Who needs: All adults.
How often: Once every 2 years for those with normal blood pressure.
Comments: More frequent monitoring for those with readings of greater than 130/85 or higher—consult your doctor.

Cholesterol measurement
Who needs: All adults.
How often: Once every 5 years. More often if total or LDL ("bad") cholesterol is high, HDL ("good") is low, and/or you have risk factors.
Comments: Those at high risk for heart disease need medical advice about life-style changes and possibly drug therapy—consult your doctor.

Pap smear (for early detection of cervical cancer)
Who needs: All women with a cervix, starting at age 18, or earlier if sexually active.
How often: If 3 annual tests are normal, then once every 3 years. More often if you smoke or have multiple sex partners or other risk factors.
Comments: Some experts advise that woman who have never had an abnormal result can stop being screened after age 65—consult your doctor.

Breast cancer screening (mammography)
Who needs: All women 50 and over; those 40-49 should discuss risk factors with a doctor.
How often: Annually. Medicare reimburses for it.
Comments: Clinical breast exams are also important—consult your doctor.

Colonoscopy screening (fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy)
Who needs: Everyone 50 and over; earlier for those at high risk.
How often: Occult blood test annually; sigmoidoscopy every 5 years or colonoscopy every 10 years.
Comments: Digital rectal exam and X-ray with barium enema may also be done. Medicare now pays for colonoscopy—consult your doctor.

Prostate cancer screening (prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test; and digital rectal exam, or DRE)
Who needs: African Americans and men with family history, DRE and PSA starting at age 40. For others, DRE, and possibly PSA, starting at 50.
How often: DRE annually; PSA on professional advice.
Comments: Usefulness of PSA screening for all men remains controversial—consult your doctor.

Diabetes screening (fasting blood glucose test)
Who needs: Everyone 45 and older; earlier for those at high risk.
How often: Every 3 years.
Comments: African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, obese people, and those with a strong family history need more frequent screening, starting at age 30—consult your doctor.

Thyroid disease screening
Who needs: Women 50 and over; those with high cholesterol or family history of thyroid disease.
How often: On professional advice.
Comments: Routine screening remains controversial. Talk to your doctor about risk factors.

Chlamydia screening
Who needs: Women 25 and younger, if sexually active.
How often: Annually, or more often.
Comments: Men and women of any age who are at risk for STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV) should be tested—consult your doctor.

Glaucoma screening
Who needs: People at high risk: those over 65, very nearsighted, or diabetic; blacks over 40; those with sleep apnea or family history of glaucoma.
How often: On professional advice of eye specialist.
Comments: Many eye specialists advise screening all adults every 3-5 years, starting at age 39—consult your doctor.

Dental checkup
Who needs: All adults.
How often: Every 6 months, or on professional advice.
Comments: Should include cleaning and exam for oral cancer—consult your doctor.

Tetanus/diphtheria booster
Who needs: All adults.
How often: Every 10 years.
Comments: People over 50 are least likely to be adequately immunized—consult your doctor.

Influenza vaccine
Who needs: Everyone 50 and over, people with lung or heart disease or cancer, and others at high risk.
How often: Annually, in autumn.
Comments: Even healthy younger adults can benefit and should consider getting the shot—consult your doctor.

Pneumococcal vaccine
Who needs: Everyone 65 and over, and others at high risk for complications.
How often: At least once.
Comments: Effective against most strains of pneumococcal pneumonia; lasts at least 5-10 years—consult your doctor.

Rubella vaccine
Who needs: All women of childbearing age.
How often: Once.
Comments: Avoid during pregnancy—consult your doctor.

Hepatitis B vaccine
Who needs: All young adults, as well as adults at high risk.
How often: On professional advice.
Comments: All newborns should be vaccinated—consult your doctor.

Chickenpox vaccine
Who needs: Anyone who has never had chickenpox.
How often: Once. But above age 13 it requires two shots.
Comments: Not recommended for pregnant women or those with compromised immunity—consult your doctor.

Article Source:


Preventive Colon Cancer Screening: 100 Percent Covered

Have you added a routine colon exam to your preventive screening checklist? If not, then maybe you should. The UT SELECT Preventive Care Program currently provides 100 percent coverage for preventive colon cancer screening by way of colonoscopy or CT colonography - also know as virtual colonoscopy. This valuable benefit is available to all employees and dependents covered under the UT SELECT medical plan. No copayment or other out of pocket costs are required for preventive screenings with in-network physicians at any in-network facility.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 106,000 men and women in the United States were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009, and almost 41,000 new cases of rectal cancer were reported.

Since colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States and the second most deadly, it is important to understand different factors that affect your risk of developing the disease and know what you can do to reduce your risk.
Individuals at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer include:

Reducing your risk is essential to your health. Activities that have been proven to reduce individual risk include the following recommendations:

It is important to know that both prevention and early detection are key factors in reducing your risk for this disease.  Colorectal cancer is preventable and highly curable if found in the early stages. You have the ability to address both of these factors directly at little or no cost.

The UT System’s 100 percent coverage of preventive colonoscopy and preventive CT colonography screenings offers an opportunity for covered individuals to have this life-saving procedure at no cost to the UT covered employee, covered and dependent. UT System’s Living Well Health Manager can connect you directly with numerous resources that offer various types of support for incorporating risk reducing behaviors and activities into your regular routine.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and an opportunity for you to make an important plan regarding your health:

For more information about this benefit, contact Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas Customer Service at 866-882-2034.

About UT Systems Office of Emplyee Benefits- “Living Well: Make it a Priority” Worksite Health & Wellness program was established in 2007 to encourage all employees, retirees and dependents to reach their full potential and maintain the productivity necessary to meet the challenges of work and life. Our goal in providing a variety of programs, tools and resources is to enable you to take charge of your health and to develop your own personal wellness program utilizing all programs and services available through both UT System Institutions and our plan vendors.Visit us at

Contact Us

If you would like a specific topic discussed or have a question you would like answered in a future issue of this newsletter, please send your suggestions to

UT System Employee Benefits Website:
UT System Retirement Programs Website:
Your Local Benefits Office: