The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Yearly appointments: Here's what you should know


Another appointment, another item on your to-do list, another chunk of time out of your already busy day. However, the time spent in appointments is time well spent as it puts you in the driver's seat, ready to conquer health changes, early signs of disease, testing, and more, with the support of your doctor.

A yearly appointment is time set aside for you to ask and update your doctor on your health. You will have time to discuss changes, ask questions, have labs drawn, and schedule follow-ups if needed. Preventative screenings and exams help assess your risk for future problems and are key in early detection of serious illness. Schedule by logging into your MyWellSpan account. New to WellSpan? Schedule a new patient appointment. Many of our providers are accepting new patients.  

Not sure which appointments and screenings should be done yearly? Dr. Mark Goedecker, a family physician and associate chief medical officer with WellSpan, shared this list of appointments that you should consider every year, or on a regular schedule.

Annual wellness visit (once a year)

Your yearly wellness visit is a great time to evaluate and discuss your health with your doctor. A lot can change in a year, so your doctor will use this time to ask about your health including lifestyle behaviors, vaccination status, medication status, updates on your family medical history, and changes in your overall health. In addition to assessing your health, you can expect a check of your height and weight, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and your temperature.

Well woman exam (once a year)

A well woman exam is vital from the teenage years through adulthood. These visits are designed to check on your overall health with an emphasis on your breast and reproductive health. During an appointment you can expect us to check your blood pressure and your weight. We  may perform a breast exam and a pelvic exam. The visit is an opportunity to address pelvic pain, contraceptive use, issues with your period, sexual health issues, or others concerns you may have. Additionally, if you are due for a Pap test, which is a screening for cervical cancer, you can expect this as part of your visit.

Dental checkups (one to two times per year)

It is recommended that children start visiting the dentist when their first primary teeth appear, or by the age of 1.

After the initial visit, most dentists will suggest a dental appointment every six months to a year. During a visit, you can expect a dental hygienist to clean your teeth. Occasionally, the dentist may want to take X-rays, used to show the alignment of your teeth. Additionally, your dentist will check your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, and other health problems. Use this time to ask your dentist questions related to oral health and hygiene or address any concerns you may have.

Cancer screenings (varies by age)

Breast cancer screening (mammogram)

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that is used to look for breast cancer. Mammograms help to identify breast cancers early, allowing for stronger chances of treatment.

The recommended frequency of screenings varies by age:

  • Women ages 40-plus should be screened yearly.
  • All women should discuss mammogram frequency with their doctor who can account for their medical history and family history of cancer to determine if a different schedule should be followed.

Colorectal cancer screening

A colonoscopy is a procedure used to detect signs of colon cancer. The procedure, which requires some preparation, involves inserting a camera into the rectum to examine the entire colon while you are sedated. If polyps or abnormal growths are found, they can be removed during the exam. We also offer two tests – the FIT and Cologuard – that are non-invasive and require no prep or sedation. Remember, the best screening is the one you get done.

The recommended schedule of screenings is:

  • Starting at age 45 for those at average risk. The frequency of the screening depends on the method. Colonoscopy screening is every ten years if normal.
  • Before age 45 for those at increased or high risk of colon cancer. Repeat the screening on a regular schedule discussed with your doctor based on your risk factors. High risk groups include:
    • Strong family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps.
    • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps.
    • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease).
    • Other risk factors as discussed with your doctor.

Prostate cancer screening

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test can detect prostate cancer. Screening is not recommended for everyone. You should discuss with your doctor whether screening makes sense based on your family history and other risk factors.

The recommended schedule of screenings varies by age (frequency will depend on test results):

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer.
  • Age 45 for men who are high risk, including black men and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.
  • Age 40 for men at higher risk, including men with more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer diagnosed before age 65.

The recommendation for regular screenings will vary depending on the results of your PSA test. If no cancer is found, screening frequency will vary based on PSA levels:

  • PSA levels of less than 2.5 ng/mL may only need to be retested every 2 years.
  • PSA levels of 2.5 ng/mL or higher should be screened yearly.

However, please discuss the right testing frequency in partnership with your doctor.