Physical examination: what tests to expect (2023)

A routine physical exam will ensure that you stay healthy. A physical exam can also be a preventative measure. It allows you to catch up on vaccinations or catch a serious illness like cancer or diabetes before it causes problems. During a routine physical exam, your doctor may also check your vital signs, such as your weight, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Your doctor will do a physical exam to see how your body is doing. Depending on your personal medical history, your doctor may focus on specific areas. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, you may have additional blood pressure checks, blood tests, and screenings for diabetes and cholesterol.

Depending on test results, age, and personal medical history, the exam is also an opportunity to discuss future preventive measures with your doctor.

An average physical exam may include:

updated health history

Your doctor may request an update on new developments and changes in your medical history. This could include questions about your job and relationships, medications, allergies, dietary supplements, or recent surgeries.

vital signs check

This includes measuring your blood pressure and monitoring your heart and breathing rates. Your blood pressure should be checked at least once a year or once every three years, depending on your history.

visual confirmation

Your doctor will review your appearance for signs of possible medical conditions. They will check the parts of your body that can visually indicate existing health problems. This includes checking the following points:

  • Kopf
  • Eyes
  • breasts
  • Abdomen
  • Musculoskeletal system, such as the hands and wrists.
  • Nervous system functions such as talking and walking.

physical exams

As the physical exam continues, the doctor uses tools to look inside your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. He will listen to your heart and lungs. This exam also includes:

  • Touching or "patting" parts of the body (such as the stomach) for abnormalities
  • Examination of skin, hair and nails.
  • possibly examination of your genitals and rectum
  • Test your motor functions and reflexes

Lab tests

To complete the physical exam, your doctor may draw blood for various laboratory tests. These may includecomplete blood countand a comprehensive metabolic panel (also known as a chemistry panel). The panel analyzes your blood plasma and can indicate problems that exist with your kidneys, liver, blood chemistry, and immune system. This helps identify any irregularities in your body that could indicate a larger problem. Your doctor may order a diabetes and thyroid screening test. If you are at increased risk of heart attack, heart disease, or stroke, a lipid panel (cholesterol test) may also be ordered.

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Your doctor may order screening tests. These can vary depending on the biological sex.


  • Mammography: In women with low or intermediate risk ofbreast cancer, a mammogram is recommended every two years between ages 50 and 74. Earlier and more frequent testing may be recommended based on your personal and family history of breast cancer.
  • Breast exam: A breast exam may be used to look for abnormal lumps or signs of breast cancer.
  • Papilla: The Pap smear is a screening test tocervical cancer. Women should start getting tested at age 21. Thereafter, additional testing is recommended every three years, as long as the woman has a healthy immune system. From the age of 30, a Pap smear is recommended every five years until the age of 65. After age 65, most women no longer need a Pap smear.
  • gynecological examination: This can be done with or without a Pap smear. A pelvic exam involves examining the vagina, cervix, and vulva for signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STD) or other condition.
  • cholesterol tests: Most women should start getting regular cholesterol checks at age 45. If you have diabetes or heart disease, or are genetically predisposed to it, you may need to start having your cholesterol checked in your 20s.
  • osteoporosisScreening: Bone density scans should start around age 65. They can start earlier under certain medical conditions.


  • Cholesterol tests: Most men are recommended to start with regular cholesterol checksAmendment 35. If you have a history of or genetic predisposition to diabetes or heart disease, you may need to start checking your cholesterol in your 20s.
  • prostate cancer test: Generally with theprostate specific antigen testand a digital rectal exam is not recommended for prostate cancer screening, so talk to your doctor. Screening may be recommended for some men going forward.Change 50. It can start as early as age 40 for those with a strong family history.
  • testicular exam: Your doctor may want to examine each testicle for signs of problems, including lumps, size changes, and tenderness.
  • BauchaortenaneurismaScreening: This is a single screening test performed by ultrasound. It is recommended for all men.Amendment 65-75who have smoked before.

Both men and women:

  • Colon cancer (colon cancer).Testing: Testing for this type of cancer usually begins around age 50. They may be done sooner depending on personal health and family history.
  • lung cancerScreening: one low dose per yearcomputed tomographyLung is recommended for men and women ages 55 to 80 who have been or are current smokers. Talk to your doctor to see if your smoking history warrants a lung cancer screening.
  • Depression: Many people are unaware of the possible symptoms of depression because they can easily be attributed to other things. However, getting a depression screening at every checkup can help your doctor determine if your symptoms are due to depression.
  • Diabetes: If you have a family history or risk factors forDiabetes– such as obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol – you should be screened for diabetes. Your doctor may order a fasting blood glucose test orA1C test.
  • Hepatitis C: It is recommended that all people born between 1945 and 1965 have a single blood test for hepatitis C.
  • vaccines: All adults need lifelong vaccinations. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are recommended for your age.
  • STI Screening: Based on your personal sexual history, regular STI screening may be suggested during any routine physical exam. This may include testing for HIV and syphilis.
  • HIV test: Your doctor may recommend that you have an HIV test once for preventive purposes, or more than one test if you have regular unprotected sex.
  • SyphilisTest: You may need to have this test if you are pregnant or at risk for syphilis.

If your doctor feels that a specific part of your body needs to be examined more closely, you may receive what is called a directed physical exam. With this type of exam, your doctor can only look at a specific part of your body to confirm the suspected diagnosis.

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Most complete physical exams are done during a routine checkup at a doctor's office. If you don't already have a family doctor, you can search for doctors in your area.Healthline FindCare-Tool.

If additional screening or imaging tests are recommended, they may be done in an imaging center or hospital. Blood draws can be done in the doctor's office before the samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis.

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Most parts of a physical exam do not involve any risk. During a blood test, you may feel slight discomfort and pain when the needle is inserted into your vein to draw blood. A small bruise may also develop where the needle was inserted after it is withdrawn. This bruise should heal in a few days.

While many consider a physical exam a good way to get an overview of a person's health, some experts aren't convinced it's necessary every year. Some abnormal test results can cause unnecessary worry. Talk to your doctor about the best time frame for your routine health checkups.

You do not need to prepare for a physical exam unless your doctor tells you to fast for a fasting blood test.

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However, before testing, note the following:

  • anything you are allergic to
  • your current medications
  • Your symptoms if you noticed any health problems
  • all current laboratory test results
  • all device cards if you have a pacemaker or similar device
  • the names, phone numbers, and addresses of any physicians or specialists you are currently seeing

You should prepare some questions to ask your doctor, such as:

  • What checkups are recommended for my age?
  • What vaccines do I need?
  • Is there anything in my family history that puts me at risk for certain health conditions?
  • What changes can I make in my routine to improve my health?

You should also be prepared to answer some of your doctor's questions, including:

  • How often do you exercise?
  • Do you smoke, drink alcohol or use any drugs?
  • How is your diet?
  • Do you experience unusual pain or discomfort?
  • Where do you feel pain or discomfort?
  • How is your sleep?

Your doctor may request a follow-up appointment to discuss test results or follow up on test results. The physical exam is an opportunity for an open discussion about health, habits, and your future. With the help of your doctor, you can have a plan to deal with signs of possible problems.

Regular physical exams, especially as you get older, can prevent many potential health problems. They can also help you prepare for problems you may be at risk for due to aging, family history, or lifestyle. Communicating with your doctor at each exam can help you learn more about your body and what you need to do to stay as healthy as possible.


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