They say prevention is better than cure. Whoever they are, they’re right. The next best thing is early detection which can help arrest problems early enough to fix them. As women get older, they become more predisposed to certain conditions many of which can turn into major concerns later. Regular health screenings can help identify symptoms early on improving treatment outcomes. Here are important health screenings all women should have.
Pap smear/HPV test (Cervical cancer)
Cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer of women worldwide. A pap smear also called a pap test is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. It involves collecting cells from the cervix and testing them. Early detection of abnormal cells linked to cancer increases the chances of halting the spread of cancer and improves the chances of being cured. This health screening should be done at least once every three years for women above 21 years old. Women under 21 should also be tested if they are sexually active. A pap smear can also be done along with an HPV test for older women to detect strains of HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted disease. Cervical Cancer: Warning Signs, Symptoms And Risk Factors
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Mammogram (Breast cancer)
Breast cancer is the world’s most prevalent cancer. The good news is it’s highly treatable if the disease is caught early on. A mammogram, also known as mammography, is an x-ray of the breast used by doctors to look for early signs of breast cancer. During the screening, the woman’s breast is compressed between plates so that x-ray images reveal any tumours or abnormalities. It is uncomfortable and for some women painful but the discomfort passes fast. It is so effective that doctors can find breast cancer for up to three years before it can be felt. This health screening is recommended every year or every two years for women from 40 years old. If you have a mother or a sister or who had breast cancer at a young age, your doctor may advise you to get screened more frequently or at an earlier age. Health: October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month & Tests You Need To Get
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Bone mineral density (Osteoporosis screening)
Approximately 80% of the people living with osteoporosis are women. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by the bones becoming brittle. Women are especially vulnerable because in the five to seven years following menopause, women can lose up to 30% of their bone mass.
A bone density test is the only test that can accurately detect osteoporosis before a fracture or break. During this health screening, patients lie on a table while X-rays scan their wrists, hips, and spine to measure vitamin D and calcium levels. You should speak to your doctor about one if you are at least 50 years old and should the best case have an annual test if you’re 65 years and over.
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Blood pressure test (Hypertension screening)
Screening for blood pressure is used to detect hypertension. Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure is too high which increases the patient’s risk of a variety of medical issues including heart disease, kidney damage or failure, dementia, blurred vision or vision loss, memory and understanding problems, and even death.
Starting at 18 years old, you should be tested every two years if your blood pressure is normal (120/80). If your blood pressure is higher than medically expected for you, you should have this health screening once a year. You may need treatment if your blood pressure goes too high.
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Cholesterol test/lipid profile test
The leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. Even the smallest elevation in your LDL “bad” cholesterol can cause health problems, making this a crucial health screening.
Cholesterol screening will let you know early enough if there are changes you need to make to your diet and lifestyle. During a cholesterol test also referred to as a lipid profile test, a blood sample is drawn from your vein, or a drop is collected from your fingertip and tested.
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Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. It is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. The prevalence of diabetes has steadily been rising in low- and middle-income countries.
Diabetes screening tests are a good preventive method that allows the development of diabetes to be caught early. If you are 45 years old and above, you should be tested every three years. If you are overweight and over 45 years old, you need to get tested more frequently. You should also consider having this health screening if you have any of the key risk factors of diabetes.
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Sexually transmitted diseases/illnesses (STD/I)
A sexually transmitted infection or disease is an infection that is spread primarily through sexual contact. One person passes the infection to another during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. If you are sexually active, whether you’re pregnant, or not, you should get tested frequently for the different STDs. The most common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, HPV, and HIV.
Aside from these health screenings, a regular or annual physical exam should be part of your personal health plan.
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