Health check-up (health screening, medical examination): What to expect

Health screening for early disease detection, also often called “check-up”, is a preventive medical examination, which usually consists of several types of diagnosis. In this article, we will describe in detail what usually is included into check-ups in Switzerland, what it is for and what can be expected.

General examination

A general examination consists of an examination of the history of past illnesses and a physical examination. Standard diagnostics, in this case, include measuring blood pressure, examining urine for blood, protein, and glucose (sugar), as well as measuring cholesterol and glucose in the blood.

A general examination is conducted for the early detection of common diseases, which can then be effectively treated. Since the risk to get most of these diseases increases approximately from the age of 35, a general examination is recommended every two years for all women and men over 35 years of age.

Why is it necessary to go through health screenings?

Even if the patient feels well in general, check-ups should not be neglected. Many diseases that can be detected during a check-up are not accompanied by physical complaints on the early stages, which can potentially be dangerous.

Regular health screenings are the only way to detect potential changes in the body at an early stage and prevent possible health hazards. Thus, for those who regularly undergo diagnostics, the chances of recovery increase.

For many diseases, there are known risk factors that are found during a health survey. Check-ups are particularly effective in detecting the following:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Kidney diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer (especially certain types of it, such as melanoma, for example)

However, this is not the complete list. Many other diseases that show no symptoms can be found during a general examination of the body. Among other things, an examination is also needed to determine if a person is fit to work.

What happens during a general health screening?

In the clinics of Europe in general and in Swiss clinics in particular, the procedure for general diagnostics is clearly regulated.

First, you will have a detailed conversation with your doctor on the following topics:

  • history of the disease (eg existing chronic illnesses, medications you are taking);
  • illnesses of close relatives (family history);
  • social environment (social anamnesis).

Based on this conversation, a so-called “Risk Profile” is made for you, which is followed by the screening of the body. As a rule, it includes:

  • clinical examination of the whole body (including examination of the genital and anal region, listening to the heart and lungs, palpation of the abdominal cavity and important lymph nodes, as well as checking the musculoskeletal and reflex systems, skin and sensory organs);
  • urine and blood tests (checking the total cholesterol and glucose in the blood and protein, glucose, erythrocytes, leukocytes and nitrite in the urine).

Since evaluation of the lab results may take several days, the final review happens during the second appointment with the doctor. The patient will be informed about the result of the check-up, after which the physician will discuss possible consequences of this information for your further lifestyle. If the results of the examination show that you might have any disease, the doctor will begin further (targeted) diagnostics and, if necessary, begin treatment.

You can read more about various elements of general diagnostics and related laboratory tests below.

Standard elements of the body’s diagnostics

  • Determining your BMI: Detection of whether you might be obese or underweight
  • Stethoscope tests: For example, cardiac defects, pericarditis (pericardial inflammation), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or emphysema can be detected by listening to your heart and lungs.
  • Cardiovascular examination and blood pressure measurement: This allows you to draw conclusions about cardiovascular diseases (such as arrhythmia, heart failure, aortic stenosis).
  • ECG: Detects arrhythmia, risks of heart attack, thickening of the heart wall, abnormal ventricular stress, pericarditis or myocardium, as well as electrolyte imbalance and adverse reactions to medications.
  • Examination of the skin: During the examination of the skin, the doctor pays attention to its abnormalities, such as eczema, ulcers, an excessive number of birthmarks or markedly changed birthmarks.

Laboratory research

  • Blood test: The laboratory checks the glucose level (blood sugar level) and the total cholesterol level in the blood. If there are abnormalities, this can indicate diabetes, malnutrition or metabolic disorders.
  • Urinalysis: The laboratory determines the levels of protein, glucose, red blood cells, leukocytes and nitrite in the urine. The values give information about whether diabetes, bacterial infection, malnutrition or kidney disease might be present.

Additional check-up elements

If desired or necessary, your check-up procedure can be extended and include one or more additional elements, for example:

  • Determination of PSA value (to detect changes in the prostate gland)
  • Advanced blood analysis (eg, determination of electrolytes, vitamins, microelements, enzymes, tumor markers)
  • Functional Pulmonary Tests
  • Eyesight check
  • Stool analysis
  • Various ultrasound tests
  • Measuring blood circulation in the legs
  • Helicobacter pylori test (detection of gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastritis, duodenitis, stomach cancer and some stomach lymphomas)
  • AIDS test
  • Hormonal tests
  • Risk assessment of rheumatism (CCP-antibody)
  • Colorectal cancer screening using immunological examination of stool

Sports physical examination

A sports medical fitness test is recommended for all athletes over the age of 35 and often consists of the following:

  • Anamnesis (this includes the so-called “sports history”);
  • Physical examination, comparable with regular testing;
  • ECG at rest and, if necessary, in the active state
  • Urine and blood tests;
  • Consultations on the choice of sport based on health results and overall fitness.