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#MBL SERIES: No.2 - Assessing your health baseline & risks

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

When was the last time you performed a comprehensive health screening? How many people you know do this on a regular basis?

Most people I know will only go to the doctor's or a hospital when they fall sick or sense there's something wrong with their health. We don't do it as a form of preventive measure. I used to do that when I was younger, probably for the same reasons as most people.

Three common reasons include:

  1. I am young and healthy. If nothing is wrong, why bother?

  2. It's costly to conduct a comprehensive health diagnostic annually. I can't really afford it.

  3. What if I have cancer or some other life-threatening conditions?! I would rather not know. Ignorance is bliss!

Do you have the same reasons as well?

It's interesting how many of us would tackle other aspects of our life with single mindedness, may it be our careers or relationships because we believe in its ROI. So we are willing to set money, time and effort to invest, nurture and troubleshoot, but when it comes to our health, we often leave it to fate. Why can't we approach our health in the same way and see the great value and benefits of a long-term investment?

I totally get it that preventive healthcare screening can be expensive and may not be affordable for everyone even though public healthcare is available in many countries, including Malaysia. Unfortunately, with its limited resources, the public healthcare system is generally set up to treat or cure, not prevent. So unless you have a great medical benefit in your employment contract, it is going to cost you quite a bit. However, If you are one of the lucky ones who work for a company that can afford great medical benefits, please make sure that an annual comprehensive health screening is covered.

Anyway, what if I can debunk all those reasons I gave above to convince you that the cost outweighs the benefits and with some planning, it can be affordable?

  1. Just because you are young, it doesn't automatically mean you are healthy. Anyway, how do you know you are actually healthy or there's nothing wrong with you unless you are certified by medical experts? (Running online self-diagnostics may be harmless and sometimes even helpful, but you still need actual medical tests run by professionals in the field using proper diagnostic equipment to be as accurate as possible.)

  2. Yes, it is costly but it will cost you a lot more if you develop a serious health condition that requires long-term or aggressive treatment. A condition which may have otherwise been prevented in the first place with early-detection.

  3. According to Cancer Research UK, the survival rate for common types of cancer is three times higher when the disease is detected early. There is a 90 percent chance for cancer patients to live for another ten years when detected early, compared to only 5 percent when not. So is ignorance still a bliss?

I have committed myself to an annual health screening for close to ten years now. However, truth be told, I didn't do it because I was aware of the points I made earlier. I did it because I was offered an opportunity to participate in a private healthcare programme which I thought was too good to turn down. This offer came to me through a cold call or maybe some random solicitation at a hospital, which I no longer recall. Whatever it was, it was by sheer luck that I signed on to this preventive health package (which I will tell you in a bit) and it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Seriously.

Before I start, I want to be clear that I don't own or work for any of these healthcare programmes. So in case you are thinking right now that this is a sales pitch, it is not. I will not even mention the company that I signed on with. If you are interested to find out more at the end of this post, just google "preventive health packages/programmes" etc. and research which one appeals to you most. Hopefully, they are available wherever you are located at.

In this post, I will be addressing the benefits of participating in this type of programme and what are the common health diagnostics I do on an annual basis so that you are aware that such option exists.

How does a preventive health screening programme work?

The one that I signed on to is a 15-year package which means I am entitled to 15 comprehensive health screenings. The contract required an upfront payment of MYR12,800* (roughly US$3,020) which can be paid with a 36-month installment plan. This came up to MYR356 (US$84) per month for a period of three years. Each year when I enroll for a screening, I will need to top up around MYR600 (US$142). The rate increases slightly over the years with inflation. So in total, it comes up to about MYR1,453 (US$343) for a comprehensive health screening annually. If I have not participated in this programme, the cost of all the tests, screenings and consultations I get from the package is easily valued more than MYR10,000 per screening.

I also have a choice of at least five private panel hospitals where I can conduct my health screening in the district where I live.

In a nutshell, this programme has allowed me to receive high quality health screening with a reputable private hospital at a relatively affordable cost. All I need is to put aside MYR121 (US$29) a month to be able to conduct an annual risk assessment of my health.(So to many ladies out there, instead of buying one more top/bag/shoe/lipstick you don't need every month, set it aside to start a journey towards a heathier you.)

What do I get from this?

This is what I get each time I perform a health screening:

  • Specialist doctor consultation (there is one doctor assigned to follow your file and he/she will conduct a pre and post-assessment consultation at every screening)

  • Dietitian counselling

  • General body screening (weight, height, blood pressure, vision test, breasts examination, musculoskeletal system, etc.)

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

  • Stress test

  • Pulmonary lung function test

  • Chest X-Ray

  • Bone mineral densitometry

  • Full abdomen ultrasound

  • Mammogram (depending on your age and conducted only once every two years)

  • Pap smear

  • Audiometry

  • Dental examination (I see a dentist separately at least once a year to do a general clean-up like scaling or fixing a cavity)

  • MRI (only upon the doctor's recommendation)

  • Colonoscopy (only upon the doctor's recommendation)

  • Tumour markers

  • Lipid profile

  • Renal function test

  • Infectious disease screening

  • Thyroid screening

  • Liver function test

  • Other blood screening (anaemia & blood cell count, diabetes, rheumatoid, gout, etc.)

Please note that some tests or screening may differ slightly from one hospital to another, as it depends on the types of equipment available at that time. Certain tests may not be applicable to you depending on your age group such as a colonoscopy, mammogram and bone density. For instance, I didn't have a mammogram until I was 40 years old. However, in principle, all hospitals should have the full range of tests I mentioned above.

The programme will send me a list of hospitals with the tests and screenings they offer prior to an appointment so that I know exactly what will be covered by each hospital for what I am paying.

How long does it take to perform this?

The screening is done by appointment only. This gives me the flexibility to schedule a convenient date and time in advance. This is particularly important if you are a busy person. I typically dedicate at least half a day for this.

Once I am registered at the hospital, I find that the tests run like clockwork with short waiting intervals. The hospitals I selected had been well-organized as they have a department dedicated for the programme. This means, the staff is dedicated to attending only patients with an appointment that day.

How has it benefitted me?

It was through these health screenings that I have detected certain conditions which I would not have suspected if I had not done so; e.g. hypothyroidism, pre-diabetic and fatty liver. In the past two years, the doctor has also detected small nodes in my breasts through my ultrasound results and recommended me to have more regular breasts examinations to monitor the size of the nodes. This triggers me to be more vigilant and mindful of potential risks of breasts cancer.

The other thing I find helpful is having a proper record of my medical and health history, which I have been tracking over the past 10 years. The allows me to share medical records required by my insurance company easily. This will also come handy if you are applying for a job or specialised training that requires an assessment of your health.

Lastly, having a baseline of my health allows me to track and monitor if any particular condition has deteriorated or improved over the years. For me, this is an intelligent approach that is based on measurable scientific data and not assumptions that can be misleading and risky.

In conclusion, I want to qualify that annual health screenings do not guarantee that you will be free from any illness or disease. The human body is extremely complex and coupled with other contributing factors like genes, age and lifestyle, anyone can be vulnerable to physical breakdowns or malfunctions, even for the healthiest person out there. (Also, please bear in mind that we are not covering mental health, which is an extremely important aspect of holistic health and wellness.) What this screening provides you with is a practical and intelligent way to assess multiple health risks so that you have peace of mind, knowing that you can make informed decisions on the right course of action to take in your health journey.

*Note: All prices are quoted in Malaysian Ringgit and obviously the cost of medical services will differ from one country to another. Healthcare in countries like Malaysia will be a lot lower than countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Singapore, etc. but I suspect there will be similar programmes that offer affordable health screening packages like this one in these countries as well.


Next post: #MBL SERIES: No.3 - Starting an active lifestyle

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