5 health checks you need to stop putting off

Between assessments, friends, family, working, dating, exercising, eating, stressing (…), and the multitude of other things going on in our lives, we can easily forget to take care of our health. While we generally don’t put off going to the doctor when something is urgently wrong (although I’m still convinced by fractured toe will heal itself), what about those seemingly less-pressing matters?

To keep our bodies running in the most efficient, fully functioning way, we need to look after them. Here are five health checks you should get done to make sure you’re in top form.

1. STI

You know what’s fun? Physical contact with that someone you are attracted to. You know what’s not fun? A reminder afterwards in the form of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The best way to prevent one of these is by correctly using a condom. Say it with me: if it’s not on, it’s not on. However, condoms are not 100% effective – you can still become infected even when using one – so you should also have regular checks with your GP.

If you’re after a bulk-billing doctor, look no further than the University. There are two medical centres at uni: one at Callaghan and the other at the Ourimbah. Another bulk-billing option for STI checks is Family Planning NSW on Hunter St, Newcastle.

2. Cervical screening test (formerly known as a Pap smear)

While we’re talking about south of the border, let’s just send out a little reminder about your Pap. The medical profession, being as marvellous as they are, have developed a vaccine to fight against specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes nearly all instances of cervical cancer.

This vaccine means, instead of having to get a Pap smear done every two years, there is now a cervical screening test. Rather than looking for abnormal cells in the cervix, the test looks for HPV infection, meaning those who are at risk can be identified a lot earlier.

It’s recommended by Cancer Screening that your first of these new tests should be done two years after your latest Pap test or, if you’ve not had one before, starting from the age of 25. Providing everything is normal, you will then only need to have the new test done every five years.

3. Self-checks

Regular self-checks on your testicles are important because the most common age bracket for testicular cancer is 15-40. The check only takes a minute and should be done about once a month, so just take a little extra time sorting things out.

If you have breasts you need to do a similar check with your chest. It only takes about a minute as well, and again, once a month is fine – but make sure you know what they feel like normally. Do account for the fact that if you menstruate your breasts will change a little over your cycle but if you do a check around the same time every month that should mean consistency.

It’s easy to google instructions for what you’re looking for in both self-exams, and if in doubt, get it checked out.

4. Skin cancer

We all know “there’s nothing healthy about a tan”. We all know we need to “slip, slop, slap”. Yet we rarely actually get that funky-looking mole checked out.

Make sure you’re regularly checking your skin, and if something does look a bit worrisome, take that thing down to your GP or local skin cancer clinic.

Check yourself top to toe – even under your toe, as skin cancer can be present even on bits that aren’t frequently exposed to the sun. Make sure you’ve got good light, and use a mirror, or a friend/partner/relative that you trust to help you with the tricky aspects.

Go for the ABCDE (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolving) when you’re looking, and I’ll repeat: if in doubt, get it checked out.

5. Mental health

It’s easy to tick a box and say “yep, got that checked, I’m good”. It is less easy to get a barometer on mental health.

Ideally, when you go for a yearly check-up, your doctor is keeping an eye on not just your body, but how you present yourself as a person. If you’re not feeling quite right, constantly tired and stressed, not sleeping well, or anything else is bothering you, go see your GP or book yourself in with a counsellor.

There isn’t much point caring for your vehicle if your engine won’t start, so stay vigilant about it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like you’re not coping – these checks can all be done at the on-campus medical centres.

BONUS ROUND: Donate blood

You’ve got all your checks done and are feeling healthy as – amazing. Guess what you can do now? Donate blood.

It only takes one hour to get it done, but each donation has the potential to save as many as three lives.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service stop by Bar on the Hill fairly regularly, so make sure to head on by next time they’re on campus.

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