Despite the extraordinary diagnostic technology available today, the time-honored physical examination is still of the utmost importance. It is this close connection between physician and patient that creates a relationship that helps the patient through difficult times.
A physical exam is preceded by a medical history so the physician can get to know not only the present problem, but also what has gone before.
Past records must be reviewed and detailed questions asked, not only about symptoms but habits.
Expect personal questions about cigarette smoking, drugs, alcohol, sexual practices and emotional problems.
The actual exam must be thorough and unhurried, except in some life-threatening situations. Everything must be examined. The stethoscope, reflex hammer and rectal glove may be low-tech, but they still have important roles.
Body Parts to be Examined
Many physicians start an examination at the top and work down, making sure they don’t miss anything:
Skin: It is examined for cancer and other diseases. Particularly at risk are former sailors who spent a lot of time on deck exposed to the sun.
Eyes: An ophthalmoscope reveals information about sight.
Mouth: An exam is especially important for those who chew tobacco.
Lungs and heart: A stethoscope listens for vital sounds.
Abdomen: Examined for signs of any enlarged organs or unusual masses.
Penis and scrotum: A check for venereal disease and testicular cancer.
Rectum: Prostate and anus exams reveal any danger signs.
Legs and feet: Pulses are checked.
Nervous System: Neurological tests tell about structure.
Now the physician knows his patient well and can order whatever laboratory or diagnostic imaging examinations are necessary. Prior to leaving the office, counseling by the physician is most important to address the course of action or change that might be called for.
If the physician is to help is patient the most, an intimate and thorough knowledge of the patient is a must.
DR. CORNELIO HONG specializes in internal medicine, nephrology and hypertension. He is based in Norwich, Conn.
Cornelio R. Hong “What to expect from your yearly physical examination”. VFW Magazine.