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 7 Health Checks Every Woman Should Have

7 Health Checks Every Woman Should Have

It doesn't matter whether we are in our 20's or 80's, a reminder for all women what health checks we need to have, and how often is important.

We all know that we are supposed to eat right and exercise to maintain our health, but we don't often check in or chat about what we need to regularly check up.

Prevention is always better than a cure.  Even early detection can save your life.  This is a list worth consulting often to ensure you are on the right path to remaining healthy and safe.

The best way to stay in the best shape is to check in regularly with the health experts, rather than consulting the internet!  The only way to ensure that you don’t have bigger health issues later on.

1.  Clinical Breast Exam and Mammogram

Starting when you are in your 20's, and a must from 30+ is a breast examination from your doctor.  A mammogram (X-ray of your breast) is suggested from 40+ once bi-annually, or if you are concerned, annually.  It has been suggested to book this when your breasts are less sensitive and tender, post period.

Detection of breast cancer when it is confined to the breast gives you a better chance of survival. "Ninety-seven percent of women diagnosed at this stage survive without a recurrence for at least five years", according to the Australian Cancer Society.

2. Pap Smear

A Pap smear―a swab of cells from your cervix―is sent to a lab to be tested for any abnormalities, even if you have had the HPV vaccine.

A bi-annual pap test is recommended for women over the age of 21 to detect cervical cancer in time to treat it effectively.  But if you have had several abnormal pap tests, a smoker, or had multiple sexual partners, annual tests are recommended.

George Papanicalaou, M.D., discovered the pap smear, which revolutionised the early detection of cervical cancer.  According to the Cancer Society, over the past 50 years, the death rate from this disease has declined by more than 74 percent. 

If you are 30 or older, ask your doctor to test for HPV.

3. Melanoma Mole Screening

According to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15–39 years old and from 1982 to 2010, melanoma diagnoses increased by around 60%.  It is the second most common cancer, after breast, among women in their 30's.

Sun loving Australians who have had extensive sun exposure should begin to have an annual skin check after the age of 20. Repeat twice a year after that if you're at high risk - that is, if you've already had a basal-cell or squamous-cell carcinoma, you have a family history of skin cancer, you have many moles, or you have fair skin, red or blond hair, or freckles.

Keep an eye out on all moles on your body.  The moment you notice a colour change, or size change, it is advised to immediately consult your doctor.

4. Eye Examination

A regular eye examination is recommended to catch any eye health problems, from vision changes and sties to cataracts and glaucoma. 

Even if you have great vision, a basic eye examination is recommended over the age of 30, and then bi-annually until, 65, which then the recommendation is annually.

Your optometrist will check the pressure in your eyes.  Elevated pressure is a symptom of glaucoma. He will examine your eyelids, eye linings, and pupils for abnormalities; your optic nerve for signs of brain tumors; your corneas and irises for problems; your lenses for cataracts; and your retinas for signs of macular degeneration, a deterioration of retinal cells.

5. Colonoscopy

An annual colonoscopy is recommended after the age of 50 to detect colorectal cancer before symptoms occur, unless a parent or sibling was diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps before 50, you are at higher risk and should get your first test 10 years before they were diagnosed and repeat it at least every five years.

If no problems are found and you have no family history, testing can be limited to once every 10 years.

For a colonoscopy, the gold-standard diagnostic test, your doctor uses a colonoscope, an instrument with a tiny video camera, to examine your large intestine for polyps and other growths.

6. A Dental Check

One of the first things people notice about you is your teeth.   It is important to keep your teeth healthy, not just for vanity reasons, by checking in with your dentist.   Regular check-ups and professional cleaning will lessen your chances of developing cavities and needing more serious (and expensive) work done later on.  It is advisable to have your teeth checked every 6 months to look for early signs of tooth decay or gum disease.

7. Heart Health Test

Every three years when visiting your GP, it is advised to have your blood pressure checked to ensure that you're not at risk for heart disease, the number one killer of women. Sixty-four percent of women who die from sudden cardiac death have no previous symptoms of this disease. 

Your blood pressure, high or low, indicates many health problems, so it is extremely important to have annual checkups from the age of 20.  Especially if you are on the pill, which can play around with your blood pressure, it has been advised to check every 6 - 12 months.

Heart health tests are especially important if you have a family history of hypertension or premature heart disease, if you're 45 or older, if you're overweight, or if you are a smoker.

Consider the following special screenings:


Diabetes

Who needs testing? People who are obese or who have high cholesterol, hypertension, frequent thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurry vision, or a family history of diabetes.

What tests to expect: Your doctor will order blood tests to measure your blood glucose levels after fasting.

How often? Annually, if your first test results are normal.
 

Thyroid Problems

Who needs testing? People with a family history of thyroid disorders or those who suddenly suffer from fatigue, weight gain (or loss), and depression.

What tests to expect: A blood test that checks the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Low levels typically indicate an overactive thyroid; high levels, an underactive one.

How often? Every five years or at your doctor's discretion.
 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Who needs testing? Women who are trying to get pregnant, who have a new partner, who engage in unprotected sex, or who experience unusual vaginal discharge, irregular bleeding, or pain during intercourse.

What tests to expect: Your doctor will do a DNA probe (a cervical swab similar to a Pap test) to check for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Blood tests screen for syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV.

How often? Annually; every three to six months if you have a new sexual partner.
 

Lung Cancer

Who needs testing? Smokers who go through at least one pack of cigarettes a day or who suffer a recurring cough or wheeze. Also former heavy smokers.

What tests to expect: You'll start with a test of your breathing and lung capacity. If the results are abnormal, your doctor may call for a chest CT (computed tomography) scan to detect any tiny malignancies, which may be treatable.

How often? As recommended by your physician.
 

Ovarian Cancer

Who needs testing? Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer or ongoing pelvic pain.

What tests to expect: A vaginal ultrasound, in which a baton-shaped ultrasound scanner is inserted into the vagina to look for any growths or cysts on the ovaries.

How often? As recommended by your physician.
 

From Better Health Channel - Health checks you can do at home include:

  • skin – monitor freckles, moles and skin blemishes for changes in size, shape or colour or anything unusual such as pain or itch. See your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Women at high risk of skin cancer need regular examination by their doctor or dermatologist
  • dental care – you can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss if you clean your teeth regularly, drink fluoridated water, eat a low-sugar diet, and visit the dentist at least once a year
  • diet – you can improve your general health by eating a variety of nutritious healthy foods, and having regular meals and a healthy eating plan
  • weight – maintaining a healthy weight can prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis
  • alcohol – ‘low risk’ drinking is defined as no more than two standard drinks (for example, 100 ml of wine) on any day and at least two alcohol-free days per week
  • smoking – increases your risk of many diseases including heart disease, stroke, lung disease and osteoporosis (loss of bone strength). If you smoke, try to quit. There is no safe smoking level
  • exercise – regular exercise can prevent diseases developing, as well as being good for your emotional health. At least 2.5 hours of exercise per week is recommended
  • mental and emotional health – If you are experiencing symptoms such as intense sadness, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or have had changes to your eating or sleeping habits, see your doctor to discuss these symptoms. Intimate partner violence is one of the biggest impacts on women’s health. If you don’t have someone to talk to, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Also, please keep checking your breasts for any lumps at home regularly.  

You spend so much time, money and effort in eating right and looking after your skin, please start booking those appointments to commence looking after your insides too.

Please share with daughters, mothers, friends, all women.......let's hope it encourages more health checks.

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