Women are always so organised, we prioritise the needs of others before their own. We put ourselves last and self-care is often last on the agenda, sometimes not at all. Look, taking care of others is important, yes, but never leave yourself behind. It's important to make time for regular health screenings. These routine visits to your doctor to detect potential problems early are key to avoiding more serious health issues down the road. This International Day of Action for Women's Health, take action and remember your health is just as vital and it still matters.
“The best cure for any problem is prevention.”
The following 10 health screenings are key to maintaining good health and for detecting diseases in their earliest stages.
1. Pap Smears
A pap smear is a way to check on the health of your cervix. In the Pap smear, your doctor uses a speculum to widen the vaginal canal, takes cells from the cervix with a small brush, and examines those cells for changes that may lead to cervical cancer. Not only can a pap smear test detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it’s also a quick and simple means of screening for the possibility of early warning signs of cervical cancer. A pap smear test also allows a healthcare provider to check for any infections or discomfort you may be experiencing. Beginning at age 21 and until age 65, you should have a Pap smear every three years.
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. The risk of breast cancer increases as women grow older, but many women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. All women are at risk, and in particular women with a family history of breast cancer.
3. Bone Density Screening
A bone density test is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. This test helps to estimate the density of your bones and your chance of breaking a bone. NOF recommends a bone density test of the hip and spine by a central DXA machine to diagnose osteoporosis. DXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.
4. Blood Pressure Screening
Up to 46% of adults over the age of 15 in South Africa have high blood pressure (hypertension) but 50% of individuals with hypertension, are unaware that they have it. People with hypertension are prone to suffering from heart disease or having a stroke. Every three seconds someone dies from hypertension but painless and regular blood pressure checks can save lives. It is recommended that everyone aged 18 to 39 years is screened every 3 to 5 years and people 40 years and older be screened once a year.
5. Cholesterol Check
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol. A cholesterol test is a blood test that measures the amount of each type of cholesterol and certain fats in your blood. Too much LDL cholesterol in your blood may put you at risk for heart disease and other serious conditions. If you're age 20 or older, you should have your cholesterol measured at least once every five years,
6. Skin Examination
Women should examine their skin every month at home. Conduct these monthly skin self-evaluations at home in a well-lit room, in front of a full-length mirror. You may need a family member or a close friend to assist you to scan hard to view areas, such as your scalp and your back. Carefully inspect the skin all over your body, looking for any new moles or changes to existing moles, which can be early signs of skin cancer. If you are at increased risk for skin cancer or have a family history of it, to talk to your doctor or dermatologist about it.
7. Blood Glucose Test
Starting around age 45, women should get a blood glucose test every three years to check for diabetes or pre-diabetes. Taking a blood sugar test can help determine your blood sugar level to see if you need to adjust your diet, exercise, or diabetes medications. It has been estimated that there are about 1 in 10 South Africans with diabetes, but roughly 1 in 2 of these individuals don’t know it because it has not been diagnosed.
8. Colon Cancer Screening
Colon cancer screening should start at age 50. You'll have either a sigmoidoscopy, in which a lighted tube and camera are inserted in the anus to examine the lower colon, or a colonoscopy, in which a longer tube examines the entire colon. Unless a problem is found or you have a greater risk of colon cancer, a sigmoidoscopy is repeated every 5 years, and a colonoscopy every 10 years.
9. Body Mass Index
Starting at 18, adults should be screened for obesity, which usually requires having your body mass index (BMI) calculated. While there are no hard and fast guidelines for how often your doctor should take this measurement, it’s an important number. Your BMI indicates whether or not you are obese, a condition that raises your risk of serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
10. Dental Checkup
Regular visits to the dentist to get teeth checked and cleaned are very important and early detection can prevent diseases in the mouth. Through regular dental checkups, which involve cleaning and examining the teeth, along with X-rays, you can spot early signs of decay and any other problems.
A final word before we go
If you enjoyed this blog, we’d be very grateful if you’d help spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook using the hashtag #getmemo. You could also share your thoughts and experience if you had been for any of these screenings before. #WomensHealthMatters