Women are constantly juggling and multi-tasking to ensure a balance between work and home. We often have a huge to-do list, which invariably includes everything other than our regular health checkup.
Women are predisposed to a number of health conditions as they grow older. Regular screening ensures that any health issues are identified early.Consider these as a regular maintenance check that you do for your car,enabling it to function efficiently.Being proactive regarding your health can prevent several health problems and spare you the trouble, time, and money you would require for extensive treatment later.
While no one, not even your doctor, can tell you what you might suffer from, there are a bunch of tests that can detect some of the deadliest conditions early. We have compiled a list of suggested routine medical screening tests for you ladies that you must opt for once over the threshold of 35 years of age and well into adulthood.
1. PELVIC EXAMINATION AND A PAP SMEAR
After the age of 30, it is always advisable that you visit your Gynecologist periodically and have a complete pelvic examination and a Pap smear test. Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death amongst women in India and only very recently has a cervical cancer vaccine being introduced.
However, even after been vaccinated, women above 30 should take this test once in 3 years if consecutive PAP smear results are negative.In this test, a swab is inserted in the vagina and cervical cells are collected, which are then sent for laboratory investigations-microscopic examination. This test is usually advised at 21 years or within 3 years of being sexually active.
Before going for a Pap smear, avoid having sexual intercourse or using vaginal medications one or two days prior to your appointment. In addition to this, a complete pelvic examination should also be done to look for lumps, growths, and any abnormal discharges.
2. A COMPLETE BREAST EXAMINATION WITH A MAMMOGRAM
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in India despite being easily identifiable. It is recommended that every woman should regularly undergo breast cancer screening. As the risk of breast cancer increases with age, every lady above the age of 40 years should have an annual mammogram done. The earlier is this dreaded disease discovered, the higher are the chances of recovery.
Mammogram is a specialised X-ray of the breast tissue and is usually a digital one. This is usually recommended above the age of 40 years or earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. It is advised to be done once every 2 years.
You must learn the breast self exam. A complete breast self-examination should be done every month along with a yearly examination by an expert. Breasts are examined for pain, tenderness, lump, thickening, or any discharge. The position and direction of the nipple should also be noted. Anything amiss, and you should report it to your gynaecologist.
3. BONE MINERAL DENSITY TEST
Osteoporosis is a common degenerative condition of the bones where vital minerals like calcium leach from the bones making them weak and brittle. This condition affects 80% women and aggravates dramatically after a woman achieves menopause. This happens due to declining levels of hormone estrogen which plays a protective role on bones in women.
The bone mineral density test, i.e. the DEXA scan, involves a specialized X-ray which screens your spine, hips, and wrists while you are lying flat on a table.It measures your bone strength and assesses your risk of fracture.This test is usually recommended once a woman has achieved menopause or has had a fracture. However, nowadays many women have very low bone density and are unaware of it. It is also advisable to have this test once in 5 years after the age of 35 years.
4. THYROID TEST
Many women complain of unexplained weight gain, hair loss, brittle nails, and exhaustion. A common reason for this is an under active thyroid or Hypothyroidism. This gland secretes hormones T3, T4 and TSH and is responsible for controlling the metabolism of the body. Any alterations either more or less can produce serious changes in the body. Women are more prone to this due to the major hormonal changes we experience during pregnancy, delivery,lactation, and menopause. Woman should get this test done once in 5 years after the age of 35 years.
5. DIABETES SCREENING
A blood sugar test helps to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes. Diabetes is becoming an epidemic and is being detected at a much younger age than before.Diabetes has a tremendous impact on a woman’s health and has severe long-term complications.A blood glucose tolerance test is done to detect your body’s ability to metabolise glucose. This is usually done after taking a sugary drink with prior fasting of 9-10 hours. This test is recommended if you are overweight or have other risk factors such as heart disease, blood pressure, or strong family history of diabetes.
6. LIPID PROFILE TEST
This test checks for good and bad cholesterol along with triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fat molecule, which if present in higher levels can get accumulated in the blood vessels and can affect the health of your heart, blood vessels, and brain.This test requires fasting for 12 hours without any water or food. This is advised after the age of 30 years and should be done once in 5 years if previous test results were in normal range. However, high levels require regular screenings, i.e., once in 6 months.Women who have other risk factors such as family history of heart disease,diabetes, and blood pressure would also be advised other specific tests.
7. VITAMIN D TEST
This is a vital nutrient needed for bone growth and maintenance. In addition, it also protects your body from diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Vitamin D seems to play a role in improving your immune system.
The most important source of vitamin D is exposure to the sun. Fatty fishes and fortified dairy products are also a good source. Nowadays, women hardly have any exposure to the sun and are usually deficient of this vitamin.Secondly, as we age, the tendency to synthesise this nutrient decreases.There is no specific age for testing, but you can consult your physician,especially if you are noticing pain in your limbs, get repeated fractures, or have low bone density.