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5 of the Most Crucial Primary Care Lab Tests You Should Know

Primary care lab tests are an integral part of your healthcare. Your primary care physician may order various tests, but not all are required yearly, depending on a patient’s symptoms and medical history. 

The following are some examples of the most common primary care lab tests you should know about:

1. Cholesterol Screening

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like molecule in all your body’s cells. For your body to work right, it needs some cholesterol. However, an excess in the blood might lead to plaque formation in the arteries. 

Plaque can constrict and stiffen your arteries. This is a condition called atherosclerosis. Moreover, plaque buildup in the arteries can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Cholesterol tests check the blood to determine how much cholesterol is in your blood. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood.

Diet, weight, age, gender, and heredity affect cholesterol levels (good and bad cholesterol). Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and medication to lower your cholesterol.

2. Blood Sugar Screening

A blood sugar test identifies the amount of sugar in your blood. Sugar is a carbohydrate that your body uses to generate energy. The procedure is also known as a glucose test.

This test is typically performed by drawing blood from a vein in your arm, although it can also be performed with a finger prick. The blood is subsequently transported to a laboratory for testing.

Diabetes, gestational diabetes, and pre-diabetes are all diagnosed with blood sugar tests. Furthermore, they are utilized to check blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

If your blood sugar level exceeds normal levels, this does not always indicate that you have diabetes. Further testing, normally done every 3 to 6 months, may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

3. Pap Smear

A pap smear is a regular cervical cancer screening test. Cells from the cervix are collected and sent to a laboratory for investigation.

The test can discover aberrant cells that, if left unchecked, can develop into cancer. Pap smears are highly effective at detecting cervical cancer in its early stages, when it is most curable.

Beginning at the age of 21, most women should undergo a pap smear every three years. Women at high risk of cervical cancer (due to HIV or family history) may require more frequent screening.

Abnormal pap smear findings don’t always signify cervical cancer. They can be caused by infection, inflammation, or precancerous cervix cells. So, follow-up testing will be necessary.

4. Mammography

A mammogram is a breast X-ray to detect breast cancer. It is the most effective screening test for breast cancer as it can often detect tumors that are too tiny to feel. 

Mammograms are not without flaws. Some malignancies, especially tiny ones, can be missed, and they can also find fake malignancies (false positives). However, regular screening plus biopsy can rule out cancer.

Yearly mammography is recommended for women over the age of 40. If you’re under 40, ask your doctor when and how often to have one.

5. Prostate Examination

A prostate exam is a medical test performed to detect prostate cancer. The exam involves feeling the prostate through the rectum by a doctor or nurse.

The best technique to identify prostate cancer early is through a prostate exam. Early detection is critical since prostate cancer is highly curable if detected early. A prostate exam is a quick and easy process. It is not unpleasant, and no additional preparation is required.

If you are male and over the age of 50 or have a family history of prostate cancer, you should consult your doctor about having a prostate exam.


Primary care lab tests can diagnose and treat diseases before they worsen or when they are easier to cure. They can also provide vital information regarding an individual’s general health. 

Additionally, primary care lab tests can screen for diseases such as cancer. Screenings discover issues before they create symptoms to prevent or postpone significant health issues.

Aspen Medical Center is a state-of-the-art primary care and urgent care center in Santa Fe and Española, NM. Our competent team of family doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are committed to taking care of your health needs with care and compassion. Call to schedule an appointment.