Many physicians still believe the annual physical is a necessary part of preventive healthcare. But, many professional groups — the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Exam, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, among others — disagree. These groups feel that routine annual physicals for healthy adults are largely unnecessary. Instead, they recommend periodic health exams and age and risk-related tests designed to screen for specific medical conditions.

Routine Exam Schedule

How often you should see your doctor for a periodic physical exam depends on your age, physical condition, and personal or family medical history. Infants and toddlers should be examined as often as recommended by their pediatrician. Children aged 2-20 should have a physical every year or two’ For healthy adults, the AMA recommends routine exams every five years from age 21-40, and every 1-3 years after age 40.

Specific Tests Schedule

The purpose of testing healthy people for specific medical conditions is to detect common diseases that are treatable when discovered early. Some serious conditions that are easily detected through periodic testing are cervical, bowel, breast, and testicular cancer, and hypertension. The chart below tells you which tests are recommended for these conditions and how often the tests should be performed.

Visiting Your Doctor

When you do visit your doctor, use the opportunity to maintain and renew your doctor-patient relationship. These visits can also be a time for asking questions or advice about minor medical complaints or emotional difficulties. So, while annual physicals may soon be a thing of the past, visiting with your doctor is always a good idea.

Periodic office visits can help renew your doctor-patient relationship.


Cervical cancer (Women) Pap Test After 2 negative tests, every 3 years until age 40; annual thereafter.
Hypertension (Everyone) Blood Pressure Screening If normal, every 2 years until age 50; annually thereafter.
Bowel cancer (Everyone) Digital ExamOccult Blood in StoolSigmoidoscopy Every 5 years from age 30-40; annually thereafter.Every 2 years from age 40-50; annually thereafter.After two negative tests (age 40 on); every 3-5 years.
Breast cancer (Women) Breast Self ExamProfessional Breast ExamMammography Monthly for women age 20 and over.Every 1-3 years from age 20-40; annual thereafter.One “baseline” between ages 35-40; every 1-2 years from age 40-50; annually thereafter.
Testicular cancer (Men) Testicular Self Exam
Professional Exam
Monthly from age 15 on.
Every 1-2 years.

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