14 Health Screenings Women Should Undergo
Healthy Living

14 Health Screenings Women Should Undergo

Dr.Manjusha Prabhune profile Authored by Dr.Manjusha Prabhune on 23 Sep 2014 - 16:40.

While we know that good health and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand, we often forget another key aspect of it - regular health checkups.

What do regular health checkups do?

Regular health checkups and tests can help trace any health issues that may be lurking in you without your knowledge. These tests will help identify them before they start or in the early stages of a disorder if any, increasing the chances of early treatment and complete cure. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments at the right time, you are stepping up your quality of life in leading a healthier, happier life. This holds good for men and women, but the emphasis is on women, because they tend to neglect their health for want of time or other reasons.

You may be feeling perfectly fine and have no symptoms, but remember that symptoms take a while to show up, until the disorder has reached a certain stage. This delay can be avoided and addressed right at the beginning simplifying the treatment, reducing the effort and pain of the treatment, in terms of energy, time and cost.  The tests vary for every individual depending on the age, family history and general health, other risks and symptoms if any. Getting a periodic health-check is a must after 20 for every woman to lead a healthy life.

Here’s a quick reckoner of the tests or screenings you must undergo if you are a woman. Do see your physician to understand the periodicity and the tests you should undergo which depends upon your age and health history.

History and physical exam

A general health check-up, once a year involving assessment of history and physical exam may alert you about any future health risks, before they turn chronic. Assessment of history, in women may involve changes in family history, general health, menstrual track, habits, emotional abuse, sexual orientation and practices. Physical assessment may involve weight, body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure.

Gynecological health

Every woman must be screened by a gynaecologist once she gets into her teens. Although the frequency of checkups required may vary till the age of 21, it should be a routine check-up planned at least once a year. It may involve a quick look at your breasts and rarely, vaginal exam to confirm if everything is normal. After 21, preventive health checkups are a must, again depending on your general health and as advised by your physician.

Clinical Breast exam and mammogram

Screening for breast cancer indicates, assessing a woman's breast for cancer, even if the signs or symptoms of the disease are not indicated. Usually, sonomammography is recommended at younger age due to tender and solid breasts which is then followed by routine mammogram.

If you are between 20-30 years, it is recommended to undergo breast screening every 2 to 3 years. The frequency of screening should be increased if you are exposed to any of the risk factors. If you are over 40, it is preferred to go for screening every year. Most often, mammograms (X-ray of the breast) are chosen as the best method for early spotting of breast cancer and it is easy to treat breast cancer before it spreads and cause symptoms.

STD and HPV Screening

It is advised that all sexually active women must undergo screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).Usually, every woman under 25 years old should get screened annually for early gonorrhoea. However, the recommendations for the screening of women above the age of 25 may depend upon the symptoms and a range of risk factors. Screening for STDs may involve assessment of the cervical culture, urine tests and blood examinations. Human papillomavirus (HPV), being the most common STD affecting women under 30 years old, demands routine screening (once in 5 years) for women between 30 to 65.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer or colon cancer is one of the common cancers and caused due to excessive growth of abnormal masses on the inner lining of the large intestine. Early detection of these masses as part of regular health screening helps to treat it effectively in the early stages, before it spreads. Screening of colorectal cancer involves a test called as a colonoscopy (a procedure to look inside the colon for any polypsor cancer) and the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). It is recommended to have the screening for colorectal cancer done once in 2 years, if you are 50 or above in the high risk zone, having inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease. Girls in the teens should also go for this test if they have a family history of polyposis, a genetic disorder.

Diabetes

Diabetes (high level of blood glucose) can lead to several serious health issues like heart or kidney diseases, stroke, and so on so forth. Therefore, early screening becomes a must to prevent these consequences. Screening of diabetes involves blood tests to mark off your sugar levels. Fasting is recommended for at least 8 hours prior to test. A blood sugar level around 100-125 indicates prediabetes whereas, blood sugar more than 126 (or exact 126) indicates diabetes. Another possible test is A1C and oral glucose tolerance test. Women are recommended to get screened every 3 years for diabetes, overthe age of 45 years or even earlier if there is family history of diabetes or obese and unhealthy lifestyle.

Hypertension

Hypertension is a silent killer as it can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop and is a major risk factor for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition of abnormally raised BP (140/90 or higher) that can contribute to heart attacks or strokes without any prior indication. Women who have unhealthy lifestyles, or have genes for high BP or obese or much stressed must get themselves checked every year. So, screening and early spotting of risk can save your life. BP screening is easy and involves taking the readings of your systolic/ diastolic blood pressure using Sphygmomanometer. It is recommended to get tested at least every 2 years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80) and at least once a year your BP ranges between 120/80 and 139/89.

Lipid Profile

Increased level of blood cholesterol may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Hence it is very important to get yourself screened to prevent these life threatening events. Screening for high cholesterol involves a blood test to measure the cholesterol (LDL-bad cholesterol, HDL-good cholesterol, and blood fat-triglycerides) level. This blood test demands fasting for almost 12 hours, before the blood is taken out for testing. It is recommended to get yourself screened after every 5 years, if you are 20 or above. Regular screening especially over 45 years of age is recommended more frequently if you are exposed to risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems and smoking.

Hepatitis B and C

Screening for Hepatitis B and C is recommended for women of ages between 13 to 18.  It is especially important for women who are at high risk, including drug users, those living in infection prevalent environment, HIV positive, if the mother had the disease and women who had blood transfusion before 1992. Follow your physician’s advice for screening frequency.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the common cancers in women affecting the cervix that connects the uterus and the vagina.

Women are recommended to go for cervical cancer screening on turning 21 according to Dr. Purnima Nadkarni. For the screening of cervical cancer, Pap smear test is commonly preferred. It involves performing laboratory tests on some scraped cells of your cervix to identify the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, even before they develop which makes it treat. After 21 women should go for this test every two years. For women over 30 years your doctor may choose to get HPV also done after every five years.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic organs include bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum. Prolapse refers to a drop of organ from its normal place. About one-third of women experience pelvic organ prolapsed or similar condition in their life. It is recommended to get screened once a year, beginning from the age of 65. Usually, women notice this problem by observing some abnormal functions of bowel or bladder problems.

Bone Density

Every woman of age 65 and above should get screened for bone density, at least once every two years. However, those exposed to risk factors such as osteoporosis, eating disorder or obesity should get screened even before the age of 65 and may be more frequent. Bone density scan involves X-rays to detect theamount of calcium and other bone minerals in the particular part of the bone like hip and forearm. Women are prone to osteoporosis and tend to lose bone mass after menopause. Those who lead sedentary life style and have low calcium levels are at risk for loss in bone density.

Thyroid

Thyroid problem is one of the most common disorders particularly in women. Thyroid disorders result from a combination of environmental, nutritional and lifestyle factors.It is recommended that, women between the ages from 19 to 49 should get screened for various thyroid abnormalities. However, those who are exposed to risk factors such as autoimmune disease or having thyroid family history should get screened after every 5 years once in their 50s.

Visual Acuity

This is a common screening to check eye sight and related issues which is recommended to all irrespective of their age and gender. This includes measuring the ability of a person to read the smallest letters on the chart which is kept 20 feet away from you. The first eye examination for vision screening should be done at the age of 4-5 years or at school entry age, if the child has a family history of vision problems. A comprehensive eye-check up every 2 years is a must from the age of 18. Women with Diabetes and with family history of glaucoma should get their eyes tested every year from the age of 30.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.