Women’s bodies are different from men. And although everyone is advised regular health check-ups, women must definitely get them more often. There are reasons for this as female physiology is slightly more delicate. The female skeleton is very smooth and much more delicate than a male skeleton. Women also tend to have weaker ligaments and tendons. Women have lower muscle mass, and they tend to have less oxygen in their bodies due to different physiology.
Thus, women must take care of themselves and go for regular health screenings. It is a part of healthy habits, just like exercise, proper diet and stress management. Routine screenings can detect changes and problems early on to prevent complications and have a good quality of life. The following is a list of 8 essential medical screening that every woman should get in their life.
Bone density screening
With age, women’s bones become fragile, and the bone density decreases. The bones become weak. Women must get screened for osteoporosis after a certain age. In the test, a specific kind of x-ray machine scans the body to determine the thickness and strength in the bones. It is also called a DEXA scan, wherein the woman lies on a table, and an x-ray machine with a low dose takes pictures of the bones.
The frequency of this test depends on a lot of things, and a doctor can guide the best. But this is suitable for women above the age of 65 or women going through menopause in risky cases. Women who are at risk for osteoporosis – with low weight and existing fractures should be screened before the age of 65. The frequency depends on risk factors, current bone density, and medical conditions of the woman.
A mammogram is one of the most important tests a woman needs to undergo. This test detects breast cancer, to which many women are susceptible. The breasts are compressed between plates to get an x-ray. The chances of this problem increase with age, hence consultation with the doctor should determine the frequency. Some medical guidance says that the age of 40 is the time to start, while some say 45, 50, and 55. The frequency can be every one or two years. But the exact age to start screening will differ from woman to woman based on their current condition.
Doctors do say that if there is a medical history of breast cancer in a woman’s family, then she must start screening ten years before her relative got diagnosed. Older women must get an annual mammogram because if the cancer is detected in stage I, it can be cured. Also, women must check for bumps and lumps through a self-exam regularly. If they find anything suspicious, they must get it investigated.
Blood Glucose test
Women must get regularly screened from the age of 45 for prediabetes and diabetes. Getting a blood glucose test done once in three years is a good practice. Diabetes can occur when the body is unable to break down sugars. When this happens, there can be health complications. As per the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force, it is recommended for women between the ages of 40-70 and those who are overweight. The most common test is a fasting plasma glucose test.
If the reading is 100 mg/dl or more, then the woman is prediabetic, and a reading of 126 mg/dl or greater means she is diabetic. Women who are obese, have a family history of diabetes, belong to a susceptible ethnicity or race, must get screened early and regularly. Also, you must consult a physician if you have gestational diabetes, certain medical conditions like high cholesterol, or display symptoms of being diabetic.
Pap tests or pap smears are performed to check for cervical cancer. They are relatively easy to do and are quite cheap as well. It’s a small but important health screening test for a woman. Women with a history of smoking and sexually transmitted infections are more prone. These tests are required three years after a woman becomes sexually active or at the age of twenty-one. Women need to get an annual pap smear test to detect any abnormal changes to cells that could cause cervical cancer. The test requires a small sample from the surface of the cervix, which is then examined for abnormalities.
As per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, an annual pap test is required until the age of 30, and then they can be done once in two years. At 30, if a woman has three pap tests that come back clean, then it can be done once in the coming two or three years. This test is very important for women, as cancer can be cured if detected earlier. Pap smear test is an important medical screening that every woman should get in their life and should encourage women around them to get too.
STI & HIV Screening
Women having a good sexual drive or multiple partners must get tested for STIs and STDs. These can become problems later if you don’t get regularly tested. Many STIs and STDs are treatable, but it is important to get them detected quickly to prevent a situation from spreading to your partner or worsening. Regular screening is recommended. While you get tested for STDs, make sure you also get screened for HIV. Your health care professional will determine how often you need to be tested for HIV based on the risk level.
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Dental health is important for a quality life. All adult women must go in for dental check-ups twice a year. These checks involve x-rays, cleaning, and examination and can catch signs of decay or other issues. These are preventive checks, so confirm with the insurance company if they are covered.
Heart disease has claimed more than 500,000 lives of women annually. These problems can be managed with changes in lifestyle, diet, and physical activity. There are several tests for heart health, like blood pressure and cholesterol. There are screenings for low-density lipoprotein, good cholesterol, or blood fats like triglycerides, which is bad cholesterol.
Women above fifty must get their homocysteine, lipoprotein, and C-reactive protein (CRP) checked. These can be causes for heart disease later on as CRP indicates inflammation, lipoprotein can increase blood clotting, and homocysteine can cause build up in the bloodstream. The build-up can cause heart attacks. Shortness of breath and chest pains are tested by an echocardiogram to determine if the blood flow to the heart is reduced. A blood pressure check is also important in detecting heart diseases. With the ever-changing lifestyle, your heart needs special care, and hence, heart check-up is an essential medical screening that every woman should get in their life.
Colon Cancer screening
Around 1 out of 16 women have the chance of getting colon cancer. But it has stage – a precancerous stage, wherein it can be treated. It is also known as the Katie Couric test because she went through colonoscopy on television, and people realized that colon cancer could happen to women as well. The screening of colon cancer can happen at a doctor’s office and must mandatorily start at age 50.
Women can go through sigmoidoscopy – a camera and lit tube inserted into the anus for the examination of the colon; or colonoscopy – where the whole colon is examined. A colonoscopy is repeatedly done every ten years, whereas a sigmoidoscopy is done every five years. A colonoscopy allows a doctor to inspect and polyps, small growths, or signs of cancer on the colon. The woman is administered the medicine that causes sleepiness. A colonoscope with a camera is inserted into the colon. Small air puffs are added to keep the passage clear and allow the doctor to view the inside.
Women must examine their skin regularly for moles or any changes to the skin. Any family history of skin cancer puts the woman at risk automatically. All women above 18 must get annual exams by dermatologists. Doctors look for red or brown spots on the full-body, including scalp, underarms, and toes. Melanoma accounts for 4 %of skin cancer instances. Women are prone to skin cancer as they age and hence must be careful, especially in areas that can’t be seen daily. If detected early, they can be managed by surgery.
These are some of the most important tests or health screenings that women must perform. Issues related to blood clots or loss, diabetes, mammary glands, and the heart must be monitored. There are other tests that a woman can undertake based on the discussion with her doctor. She must be open about her current physical health and family medical history. Other situations may require different actions. For example, smokers may require testing their lungs for signs of cancer.
Life is precious, and all women must be careful about their health. They must get these preventive screenings done so that their health is in good shape. If your mother, sister, wife, friend, or daughter is of the right age, then you should encourage and support them in getting such tests done. Even if you feel fine, there may be things going in your own body, as a woman, and you need to be cautious of that. The female body is susceptible to a lot of changes in every phase of life, unfortunately, and so erring on the side of caution is not bad. Hence, taking a little time to reflect upon the overall health, the above-mentioned tests are the essential medical screening that every woman should get in their life.