5 Top Health Screenings for Women
Women between the ages of 18 and 40 should make sure to have at least these 5 important health screenings annually, and should conduct several monthly self checks.
The five basic and essential health screenings every women between 18 and 60 should have include
- gynelcologic exam
- breast exam
- cholesterol screening
- diabetes test
- skin cancer check
After age 40, women should also have a mammogram and a bone density evaluation. After age 50, a colon cancer screening and bone density test may also be recommended.
In addition, women should perform a breast self-examination at least once a month.
1. Gynecologic Examination
An annual gynecological checkup involves a breast exam and a pelvic pelvic exam. A routine pelvic examination includes a Pap smear, an examination of the vaginal walls, and possibly a check of the rectum that may include a rectal smear scan for colon cancer.
When the doctor or nurse practicioner performs a Pap test, he or she will gently swap the cervix to obtain sample cells. This is a painless process, and only takes a few minutes. The swabbed sample will be sent to a lab to check for evidence of abnormalities which might indicate cancer or precancerous conditions. The smear will also be tested for HPV, the human papilloma virus.
This exam should be performed once a year. If you have a family history of cancer or abnormalities, your health-care provider may recommend you be checked more frequently.
2. Breast Exam
Ideally, you began doing a monthly breast self-exam at age 18. Perform the self-exam about 3 to 5 days after the start of your period. You should perform the check twice, once while lying on your back and again while standing in front of a mirror.
If you're not menstruating, due to pregnancy or breast-feeding or menopause, perform a self breast exam on the same date each month. Also, women age 40 (or younger if health or family history place you at high risk for breast cancer) should have mammogram every year.
3. Cholesterol Screening
Recent recommendations for women's cholesterol screening have lowered the age to 45 except in the case of family history or other indicators. Patients with the following conditions should have a cholesterol screening at any age: family history of heart disease; weight more than 20 percent above ideal body weight; have high blood pressure; or consume a high-fat diet. A blood test taken after you've fasted for at least 12 hours will be used to measure total cholesterol as well as its components including HDL, LDL and in some cases VLDL.
If your cholesterol is above normal, your health care practitioner will recommend dietary changes and an exercise program. You may also be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication (generally referred to as statins). The cholesterol screening checks for all lipids (fats) in the blood and must be performed on blood drawn after a 12-hour fast.
How often should you be screened? Every three to five years, if everything is normal. If not, this test should be done yearly.
4. Diabetes Type II Screening
If you have a parent or sibling with diabetes, or you're of African, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian descent, you may be at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes (insulin resistant diabetes, type II). This condition typically begins slowly, most often after age 40 in people who are overweight.
It can generally be controlled with diet, weight loss and exercise. If you fall into one of the high-risk categories you should have this test at any age, but if not you can wait until age 45.
How often should you be screened for type II diabetes? Every three years unless you fall into one or more of the high-risk categories or have symptoms of pre-diabetes.
5. Skin Cancer Screening
Physicians check for skin cancer during routine annual physical examinations, and more thorough screenings from head to toe are recommended beginning at age 18.
If you fall into any of the high risk categories including fair complexion, tanning bed use or high exposure to sunlight, and you notice changes in a skin texture, freckles, moles, or a lesion bigger than a pencil eraser that develops irregular borders or bleeds or you should see a doctor immediately.
You should perform a self-examination at least every 3 months; if you have a history of daily unprotected exposure to sunlight due to activities or because of your job, or if you've one or more blistering sunburns especially as a child, or have history of skin cancer (personal or family), your health care provider may want to examine you more often than once a year.
Healthy Lifestyle Articles