Health is something many of us take for granted. We shouldn't. Starting from around age 30, doctors say we should be doing an annual health check-up — especially those who have a history of illness in their family.
"Many diseases do not present obvious symptoms in their earliest stages, including common diseases like high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, and cancer," says Dr. Aileen Wang, Internal Medicine physician of Health Management Center at Jiahui Health. "Once a patient experiences symptoms that lead them to visit a doctor, they could already be in a late-stage version of the disease or have developed related complications. Regular physical examinations can detect these 'silent killers' early."
Aside from having regular check-ups, it is also good to have a physician who is familiar with your medical history, according to Dr. Lida Farid, Family Physician at ParkwayHealth. "Research has shown that persons who were connected to a specific clinician receive higher rates of preventive services leading to lesser incidence of illness and mortality."
What Does a Health Check-Up Look For?
This is important info, but if you already know, skip down to the next section where we tell you where you can get a check-up.
The basics normally include measuring height and weight (to keep track of BMI), taking blood pressure (high indicates a risk of heart disease, low can cause dizziness, fainting, etc.), and blood tests to check for diseases like anemia, infection, and cancer. Urinalysis (urine) tests detect kidney disease, diabetes etc.), electrocardiograms check heart rhythm, and chest x-rays can help pneumonia, heart failure, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, and lung tissue scarring (fibrosis). These check-ups don't usually test for STIs though — find out more about how and where to do that here.
Once you begin searching for signs of cancer — 'tumor markers,' substances found in higher-than-normal levels in the blood, urine, or tissues — things get expensive. Premium prices do also get you all sorts of extras like food allergen tests, cholesterol levels, tests for rheumatism (arthritis). Some tests may be unnecessary — check with your healthcare provider to see which package is suitable for your age, health concerns, and family history.
There are also sex-specific tests; men might get an ultrasound to check for prostate cancer, which some doctors recommend starting at 40, others at 50. Gynecological tests for women could include: a pap smear to check for cervical cancer (recommended for women aged 21+); test for HPV, usually done together with a pap smear test; a wet mound (generally only performed if vaginitis or genital inflammation is present), a mammogram x-ray to check for breast cancer (recommended for women aged 40+), and a breast ultrasound to scan for lumps, cysts or tumors.
The price you pay depends on the package you choose and how much you or your insurance provider are willing to pay — the more you check for, the more kuai you're gonna have to cough up. The prices range dramatically: a bare basics check-up at Shanghai Renai Hospital, designed to fulfill the bare minimum work visa requirements, can cost you as little as 220rmb. The full parade of tests at Yosemite can cost 15,000rmb+. It's not cheap. But, your body... you're not getting a backup. Gotta treat this one right.
Special disclaimer: we are not doctors or medical professionals. We've just spoken to some. Absolutely check with a doctor about what check-up is right for you — no two bodies are exactly alike.
Where You Can Go For a Health Check-Up
Both international/local private clinics and public hospitals offer checkups, to varying degrees of comfort and language options. Almost all have arrangements for direct billing to your insurance; if your plan covers the annual check that is. Don't have insurance? Think about getting it.
Results: 3-4 business days
This western-style, English-speaking clinic based in Jing'an offers one of the cheapest basic health check-up options and comparatively more tests for your money in the more premium packages.
Flexi-basic (the 850rmb option) includes nine medical examinations, seven lab tests (including urinalysis, liver and kidney function test, blood count), plus one radiology assessment (electrocardiogram).
The Premier Health (4,800rmb) option adds five tumor markers, a TCM consultation, ENT assessments, ultrasounds, two radiology tests and 14 total lab tests including ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate – a test to check for inflammation in the body), thyroid function test, hepatitis A&B screening, renal function test, stool occult blood, pap smear, bone mineral status, and a Helicobacter pylori breath test (left untreated, the bacteria can cause gastritis and duodenal or gastric ulcers).
Results: 10-14 business days for the full report. Results can be expedited for special circumstances
Locations: Jiahui International Hospital in Xuhui, clinics in Jing'an and Yangpu.
One of the big international daddies of Shanghai healthcare options, Jiahui, offers two health check-up packages: Package B (3,000rmb) and C (4,000rmb) — Package A is a more affordable option, but they're still putting it together. Unlike some of the other options, check-ups here are a little less extensive but they do come with a meal (after the test), free parking, a medical report, and a health manager follow-up. It's also worth mentioning that Jiahui has a HUGE 500-bed hospital, if your check-up leads to a need to stay overnight.
Both options include basic exams, ophthalmology exams, and laboratory tests like a complete blood count, liver function tests and checks for hepatitis as well as a lipid panel to see where your cholesterol is at. In terms of cancer screening, Package B checks for AFP (alpha fetoprotein) and CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) tumor markers, widely used for diagnosing cancers such as liver, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer.
For an extra 1,000rmb, Package C checks for five additional tumor markers plus a pelvic/transvaginal ultrasound for women or a prostate ultrasound for men.
Results: 5 business days
Locations: Jinqiao, Hongqiao, People's Square, Jing'an
Parkway is a go-to if you want an expat-friendly check-up experience and calm waiting rooms. If you live in Pudong and can't be bothered to trek to Puxi, there's even a clinic in Jinqiao.
They have three classes of check-ups to choose from, depending on gender.
The Essential package at 2,500rmb offers 21 basic tests including lab and radiology tests, urinalysis, complete blood count, kidney/liver function, lipid panel, EKG, and chest x-ray. For women, this package includes a pap smear.
In addition to the tests covered in the basic option, the Executive package (4,500rmb) also includes a test for arthritis, blood sugars, screening for four tumor markers, a thyroid/prostate ultrasound for men, and a HPV/pelvic ultrasound for women. The Deluxe option at 6,500rmb includes all that plus tests for 10 tumor markers a VISIA skin analysis, which scans your face to produce a breakdown on the health of your skin i.e. wrinkles, spots, pores and UV spots.
Results: 3 days
Sky Clinic is like a big, warm hug that comes at a price. Like its international buddies, it offers a we're-not-in-China-anymore-Toto experience. It has one location but offers six different check-up options which can all be customized to your needs: the cheapest option, Package A (1,500rmb) provides 11 tests including a physical exam, complete blood count, blood sugar levels, liver/kidney function tests, urine routine, electrocardiogram and chest X-ray.
The mid-range option, Package D (2,500rmb) includes everything from Package A plus tests for Hep B, rheumatism, and lipid profiles, a pelvis sonograph, and a few tumor markers.
If you bump up your budget to 7,500rmb, you get 37 tests, four extra tumor markers, a mammography/prostate ultrasound, pap smear, and a 2D echocardiography in color, to check your heart's rhythm while also showing how its chambers and valves are pumping blood.
Results: 7 business days, longer for more complex testing
Locations: Hospitals in Hongqiao and Pudong, clinics in Changning, Minhang and Huangpu
Shanghai United Family Hospital has been around since 1997 and its interiors are VIP-level comfy. It's arguably best known for its specialty in prenatal care. Check-ups here are split into two tiers: the basic package covers most of the tests you would get from other hospitals, including liver, kidney, and thyroid function, test for diabetes, urinalysis, chest x-ray, and abdominal ultrasound.
The hospital's comprehensive package includes all of this plus screening for five gender-specific tumor markers and an ultrasound of head/neck soft tissues.
Nice bit of flexibility available here: you can add on additional tests that aren't part of the package a la carte (prices range from 480-7,800rmb depending on the procedure), such as a colonoscopy with sedation (suitable to those aged 50+), stool for colorectal cancer screening, a CT scan, prostate ultrasound, CT Thorax for lung screening (recommended for heavy smokers), HPV, PAP smear, mammogram, or breast ultrasound.
Results: 7 business days or more
Locations: Hospital in Jing'an, clinic in Pudong
The first thing you notice Yosemite is its modern interiors and kid-friendly waiting areas. The basic and mid-range check-ups here are comparable price-wise and even offer more than some of the other international clinics.
The comprehensive, 3,000rmb package alone covers 25 tests, including screening for allergies (which is rare for an entry-level check-up), a complete blood count and diabetes screening, lipid panel, kidney/liver function, hepatitis tests, urinalysis, TCT & wet mound test for females, and a pelvic/prostate ultrasound. A step up to the 5,000rmb would also fling in screening for six tumor markers, a non-invasive colorectal cancer screening, HPV tests, and thyroid and breast ultrasounds.
BUT the premium level check-up is super expensive, clocking in at a whopping 15,500rmb. This VVIP, gold-plated check has all of the above tests plus a carotid artery ultrasound, echocardiogram, chest CT, an upper GI endoscopy, a colonoscopy (under anesthesia), and a skin cancer screening. Whether this justifies the price though, our jury's still out.
Public Local Hospitals/Private Local Clinics
Results: 3 days by collection, 7 days by mail
Boai is your great budget option, located opposite the Shanghai Library metro station. Waiting areas are cleaner and more modern than most other public hospitals, though you'll have to speak a bit more Chinese (or cajole a Chinese-speaking friend) during your check-up. Might be worth it: Boai is unique in that its starting package is one of the few basic-level offers in Shanghai where the available tumor markers are all included at the cheapest price (12 including bone metabolism). This check-up also includes the usual suspects — urinalysis, liver function, blood glucose etc. — breast/prostate ultrasounds, a carotid ultrasound, an electrocardiogram, chest CT, lung function test, and gynecological tests for women.
Opt for the 5,500rmb option and you also get a food allergen screening, tests for hypertension, anemia, and diabetes, a stomach ultrasound a color echocardiography, and a brain and head CT (not commonly offered as part of check-up packages).
Results:14 business days
Huashan Hospital is one of Shanghai's best public hospitals. They are also the only one on this list that doesn't offer direct billing with insurance companies. Bummer. If the idea of visiting public hospitals sounds daunting, it's worth mentioning that most doctors in Shanghai (though often not nurses/reception staff) can speak English due to their education. There is also an international division if you speak absolutely zero Chinese.
At Huashan, there are five packages. The basic option (1,621rmb for men, 1,782 for women) covers 15 tests, like blood tests, urinalysis, liver/kidney function, as well as screening for five tumor markers, an electrocardiogram, and abdominal ultrasound. One level up, package A (2,931rmb for men, 3,392 for women), offers five more tumor markers, thyroid markers, a CT scan, and HPV tests for women.
The VIP check-up is 9,802rmb for men and 10,670rmb for women. It includes a comprehensive allergy screening, a test for HIV and RPR, an MRI scan, a carotid artery ultrasound, and breast/gynecology ultrasounds — available for married women only, according to the person we spoke to at the hospital, though they didn't explain why that would be.
As it is a public hospital, be aware that wait times can be long, even with an appointment.
Results: 7-10 business days
The international wing of Shanghai Renai Hospital is an affordable, western-style healthcare option and its waiting area is on point with what you get at an international clinic. Not all of the doctors can speak English, but the assisting nurses and majority of the reception staff can. We should note that their website hasn't updated since 2016, so go in with a cautious attitude towards figures.
The hospital has limited appointments each day so booking in advance is required. Over the phone, we were told that unmarried women may need to inform the doctor of their marital status before going into any gynecology exams. We're not sure why your marital status would be an issue but there we go.
Many variations of health check-up packages available here, starting from as little as 220rmb (the ‘business professional' basic package) — which apparently covers everything required for your work visa purposes. Packages one and two are fairly wallet-friendly at 280/400rmb for men and unmarried women (married women pay 330/530rmb — no explanation). These check-ups offer 50+ tests including radiology and electrocardiograms.
If you opt for the top package (7,000rmb for men/unmarried women, 7,300rmb for married women) they include 82 items like tests blood glucose levels, screenings for female reproductive cancer, an MRI, gastroscopy, a TCM analysis, and more.
For more info on healthcare options in Shanghai, visit our Health & Wellness Directory.