When asked to identify the most important things in their life, most women would name “good health” as one of their top three. However, many women place their health on the back burner while they take care of their family and significant others in their lives. Most women have good intentions when it comes to their health, but annual checkups are often overlooked until problems arise. Conflicting health guidelines can also detour a woman from getting the care she really needs, or send her rushing around for tests she could do without. If this scenario describes you, here is a brief guide to six of the most important health screenings every woman should get and how often to get them:
Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Smear)
This is a screening that tests for abnormal cervical cells and the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Healthy women aged 21yrs to 40yrs are advised to get a pap smear every three years, and every year after 40 years old. Cervical cancer screening primarily watches for changes in the cells that could show a need for more testing like biopsies. Cervical cancer has a very high success ratio for cure if identified early and begin treatments immediately. Please note that if you have a family history of cervical cancer or have abnormal results from your pap smears, you may need to schedule repeat tests and screening annually or semi-annually, no matter what age you are. Definitely speak to your doctor and verify his advised protocol.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
This involves a colonoscopy test. A colonoscopy is the most thorough screening to find polyps and cancers and may result in their immediate removal and biopsy. Adult women of ages between 50 to 75 years are advised to get this test every ten years. This is assuming everything looks healthy. A colonoscopy may sound unpleasant to some, but it is the best tool to identify polyps or precancerous lesions or colon cancer early. Women may undervalue their risk for this disease, but it is the third deadliest and most common cancer for all women. If you might have a history of colorectal cancer in your family, a doctor might recommend commencing this screening earlier.
Breast Cancer Screening
This involves a mammogram. A mammogram is a painless, x-ray picture of the breast that can detect malignant tumors that may otherwise go unnoticed. Mammograms are a very valuable tool for identifying breast cancer. Women ages 40 to 75 years are advised to have an annual mammogram and breast check. Women aged between 35 and 49 years and women 75 years and above, should determine with their doctors when to commence and halt routine screening. Women should do this screening every year if they are at an average risk. With a history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family, your doctor could recommend a more frequent mammogram schedule.
Blood Pressure Test
This is the analysis of blood coursing through the veins. Adult women aged 18 and above should get their blood pressure checked at least once every year. Heart disease is a severe killer of women worldwide, and high blood pressure constitutes a significant risk factor. Being screened means a doctor can give recommendations concerning your health based on the obtained results. Elevated blood pressure can be a warning sign and will alert your doctor to check out what is causing it. Elevated blood pressure can be caused by a number of things, including illness, stress, weight changes, improper nutrition, emotional issues, life changes and medically related problems. Your doctor will first monitor your blood pressure to see if the elevation is just a one-time incident or if it is remaining at an increased level.
Prescribed medication can help those who have crossed that threshold into exceptionally high Blood Pressure. After this, you will be tested more regularly to guarantee whichever measures you have taken to stay healthy are working. Because of the link to cognitive decline, stroke, and heightened risk of heart disease, it is vital to ensure blood pressure is well under control.
This is a blood test that measures the total cholesterol in your body, that is, your bad LDL or good HDL cholesterol and your triglycerides, which is another type of fat in your blood. The Triglyceride levels are influenced most by what you have recently eaten, and this is why most cholesterol tests are taken after short periods of fasting. Women of all ages should have this test, but especially if they have an elevated risk of heart disease, such as family history of heart disease. High cholesterol is connected to strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease. Keeping a watchful eye on your cholesterol levels will help your doctor keep a watchful eye on any changes that might be significant.
This is a bone density test. Women aged 50 years and above should get this test done every ten years if they are not at risk. However, for women with a history of osteoporosis in their family or history of frequent bone fractures, it’s recommended they do the screening every year. This scan can alert the doctor to any drastic changes in your bone mass, which can increase the chance of injury and of failing mobility.
Please note that this is just a general guide for an average healthy woman. If you are encountering any symptoms, problems or have any concerns, please contact your doctor immediately. And remember, no matter how busy you are taking care of your family, career and loved ones, the most important thing you can do for everyone is to take care of your health!
When setting up your annual checkup, it’s important to choose a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with. Dr. William Cheatham in Pompano Beach is such a doctor! Affectionately known as “The People’s Choice” Family Doctor, Dr. Cheatham is truly gifted in putting you at ease while addressing your medical needs with his unique blend of medical savvy and genuine concern! Take charge of your health today by calling 954-364-3673 to schedule your appointment. Take action to make your health a priority! It’s a decision you won’t regret!