Prevention has always been the best way to ensure a cure. Regular health screenings are important for all women to help identify a range of serious diseases.These are not only the most efficient preventive and curative measures, but also an important way to access information to improve and maintain your health.
We often fall prey to the idea that advice for regular screening given by our health care providers need not be followed. It is not only a fallacy, but a deadly one at that.
Regular screenings for diseases that you might be at risk for or those that are age-related is something that should be on top of a woman’s priority list.
Here are some essential health checkups for women:
- Cervical Cancer Screening
East Africa has the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world. In Tanzania it is the most common cancer to afflict women and has a high mortality rate as well. The Pap Smear Test helps screen for cancerous or precancerous cells in the cervix. The swab test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, is also essential.
These tests should be followed by every woman between the age of 21 and 65. The frequency of this test, according to latest findings by the American Cancer Society are once every three years. Consult your healthcare provider to identify markers which can indicate that you need more frequent screening.
- Breast Cancer Screening
The best screening technique for this deadly disease is a mammogram, or an X-ray, that shows changes in a woman’s breast that may indicate signs of cancer.
Women who are at average risk need to get screened every other year. If your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings.
These screenings can pick up early stages of breast cancer, even before a woman shows symptoms. Regular mammograms for women between the age of 40 and 74 can decrease the mortality from this deadly disease by 15 to 20 percent.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
STI and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are not simply something young teenagers get. Anybody with an active sex life and/or multiple sex partners need to get regularly screened for STDs and STIs.
It is important for a woman to be tested regularly for this spectrum of diseases.
Share your history with your OBGYN even if you are not expressly asked for it. Sexually active women should be tested every year for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
There are different tests for STIs as well. These screenings can be done with a blood test, urine sample or a swab of your mouth, genitals or other affected areas depending upon the STI you are being tested for.
STIs can also put you at a higher risk for HIV, already a large scale problem in the African continent.
One of the most highly prevalent non-communicable disease in the world, diabetes needs to be regularly monitored and treated.
There is a direct correlation of diabetes with obesity, with increased weight often being a signifier of this dreaded disease.
Women of 45 years and older need to be annually tested for diabetes which requires various blood tests. However, if you are a young woman who is overweight and/or have a family history of this disease it is advisable that you go in for regular screening as well.
Catching this disease early is the best means of ensuring a stable life.
While a cure for type-2 diabetes hasn’t been found, catching it early could ensure better management of the disease.
While it is a widely held belief that African women have a higher bone density than women around the world, this understanding is changing. With more and more women suffering from malnutrition, the rates of this disease are increasing. Fat diets which exclude calcium heavy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese are also to be blamed. A bone density screening is almost mandatory for women above 65. Women who smoke, have more than three drinks a day, or have a parent who broke a hip at any age, needs to be screened for osteoporosis. Women with a low level of vitamin D also need to be tested. Detecting weakened bones is only possible through screening and is otherwise a very
silent ailment. Women with disease will exhibit brittle bones prone to breakage.
- Lipid Panel
This is an important blood test that measure the cholesterol levels in your body. The human body has two kinds of cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol, the former is the good cholesterol while the latter is the bad kind.
LDL cholesterol is linked to heart attacks and strokes, and causes a build-up in the arteries.
This test also measures the triglyceride levels in your blood, which is a kind of fat that is exhibited by what you’ve recently eaten.
This test is absolutely crucial for women who are 45 or above. However, if you are younger than that but still have a family history of heart disease it is important to keep a track of your cholesterol levels.
They are a great indicator of any lifestyle changes that you may need to make to better your quality of life.
- Blood Pressure Test
Having a blood pressure test is a painless procedure. It should be done annually along with your annual physical to keep track of your heart health. Heart disease is one of the most widely prevalent ailments in the world. Getting yourself screened on a regular basis can ensure that your doctor is able to provide you the guidance manage this.If your blood pressure reading is borderline it is advisable that you change your dietary pattern, cut back on smoking and drinking and exercise regularly. High blood pressure is linked to the risk of heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline and many other diseases. It is important for women to be regularly screened for these diseases as not only are they deadly but also widely ignored until symptoms get out of hand. Make sure that you identify if you are at risk for these diseases and consult your healthcare provider for the need for regular screenings