5 Essential Medical Tests You Need Every Year

Here’s everything you need to know about the medical tests you should schedule annually.

6 min read

Getting annual preventive care screenings is one of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy. By getting these tests on a regular, consistent schedule each year, you can help detect changes in your health, and take corrective action as needed.

At LabFinder, we’re all about preventative health so you can feel empowered about your care, make informed decisions, and avoid more invasive (and expensive) treatments down the line.

Here are the top health screenings that everyone should get on an annual basis:

1. Series of blood tests

Why should I get it?

These essential blood tests will help you understand how your body is functioning overall. If something comes back as abnormal, more tests or screenings can be done to determine the cause. You can typically have bloodwork done at the time of your annual physical exam.

  • Complete blood count to test for anemia, infection, leukemia, and other serious conditions

  • Comprehensive metabolic panel to test for diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and more

  • Blood sugar test to check for symptoms of diabetes or other blood sugar issues

  • Thyroid panel, a targeted test to get if you’re showing symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism

  • Lipid panel, a routine check up, or targeted monitoring for those who have a history of abnormal cholesterol levels or risk factors for heart disease

To prepare for a blood test, you should find out whether fasting is required, since food can influence hormones, blood sugar levels, and more. If you are asked to fast, refrain from eating or drinking—only water, no tea or coffee allowed—for at least 8 hours before your test, and avoid drinking alcohol the day before. (Also, you should not smoke in the hour leading up to your test.) If fasting, it’s best to get bloodwork done in the morning, from 8 to 10am. And whether fasting or not, make sure you’re well hydrated before your appointment.

2. Mammogram

Why should women get it?

Annual mammograms, which are low-dose X-rays of the breast from various angles, are critical for women for early breast cancer detection, and most insurance plans will cover this annual screening. For women who are considered to be at high-risk for breast cancer, due to age, family history, or for other reasons, ultrasound exams and MRIs may also be recommended by a doctor, in conjunction with mammograms.

All women should begin getting annual mammograms starting at the age of 40. This test is critical: it could save your life if cancer is detected at an early stage.

3. Prostate exam

Why should men get it?

A prostate exam is a test used to detect early signs of prostate cancer in men. This exam measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate, a small gland that sits below a man’s bladder. The two most common tests are:

  1. PSA, a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood;

  2. Digital rectal exam (DRE), which examines the lower rectum, pelvis, and lower belly

4. Full-body skin check

Why should I get it?

Everyone should get an annual full-body skin check, but it’s especially critical for those who have a history of melanoma, other skin cancers, or precancerous skin lesions; a close relative who had melanoma; anyone with a history of significant sun exposure; and for people who have a history of tanning bed use.

There may be other reasons for a doctor to recommend annual skin exams, but it really is a good idea for everyone to have a comprehensive skin check once a year, just for peace of mind.

This exam allows dermatologists to detect skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Guess what? It’s highly treatable—so long as it’s caught early. The dermatologist may use a bright light, or a hand-held magnification tool called a dermatoscope, to conduct the exam, which will help detect suspicious moles or skin lesions that could potentially prove cancerous.

It is truly a full-body skin check, meaning from the top of your scalp to the bottom of your feet. You’ll be asked to remove all your clothing and wear a medical gown.

Before your appointment, it’s a good idea to note any obvious spots or changes on your skin that are visible, or that you feel concerned about, and mention them to your doctor at the time of the exam. (Also: it’s important to remove all jewelry and makeup before you arrive.)

And no matter what, take good care of your skin by practicing safe sun habits: avoid using tanning beds, wear hats for shade on bright sunny days, and always wear sunscreen, even on slightly cloudy days.

5. Blood Pressure Screening

Why should I get it?

It could save your life. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, and cannot be detected without being measured.

All adults between the ages of 18 and 39—including those with normal blood pressure and no risk factors—should be screened at least every three to five years. Adults over 40, or those with an increased risk of high blood pressure, should be screened annually.

This test is taken with a blood pressure cuff, either manually or with a machine, to measure the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps. Getting this screening each year may help to reduce the chance of poor health outcomes such as heart attacks or strokes. The effects of a heart attack or a stroke can prove devastating, and in the worst outcome, fatal.

This simple screening is incredibly important. If you do have high blood pressure, your doctor might want it checked more often, and high blood pressure can be managed through lifestyle changes or medication.


Getting these 5 tests done annually is essential for identifying potential issues before they begin, or at an early stage (which can often make a critical difference in treatment). Don’t skip them!

Good news: many states offer direct access testing. That means you can schedule medical tests without a doctor’s order, which is just a referral or order from a doctor. Here’s more info about how you can get tested without a referral.

Ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your next lab test with LabFinder. It’s quick and easy, and you can book appointments 24/7 online. We’re here to help you live better.