Women’s Health In Focus: The Importance of Screening Tests

Let us turn the spotlight on women’s health. With most women today leading a hectic schedule, it is easy for many of us to forget or put our health on the sideline. But if we want to continue going about our normal routines, we have to prioritize our health and well-being.

Women’s Health: Why Screening Is Important

You probably still remember the old saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. Well, if you want to ensure that you stay healthy, you’ll have to heed this advice.

Getting checked early plays a crucial role in preventing and catching diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis in their early stages, or when they are easier to treat or curable. Screening tests are available today and they can spot illnesses even before you start having or experiencing symptoms. The screening tests you will need will depend on factors such as your age, family history, your health history plus other risk factors.

Women’s Health: 2 Diseases and Screening Tests

Breast Cancer
When it comes to breast cancer, the earlier it is detected the better your chances of a cure. The good news is the chances of small breast cancers spreading to the lymph nodes and vital organs are less likely. Women in their 20’s or 30’s should have a regular breast exam. Your doctor should be performing a breast exam as part of your regular check-up routine every 1-3 years. Those with extra risk factors for breast cancer may need more frequent screenings.

Mammography
A yearly mammogram is recommended for women in their 40s. Women between the age of 50 and 74 are recommended to have a mammogram every other year. More frequent screenings though may be recommended by your doctor especially if you are at higher risk. So how do mammograms work? Mammograms are low –dose X-rays that can detect a lump even before the patient feels it. It is important to note though that normal results do not rule out breast cancer completely.

Cervical Cancer
The cervix is the narrow passageway located in between the uterus and the vagina. Abnormal cells can grow on the cervix and can turn cancerous. The human papillomavirus or HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer.

Pap Smears
Having regular pap smears can easily prevent cervical cancer. When you have a pap smear, the doctor will scrape some cells off your cervix and these will be sent to a lab to be analyzed. Pap smears can find abnormal cells in the cervix which can be removed before they turn cancerous. It is commonly recommended that women get their first pap smear by the time they turn 21, and every two years after. If you are 30 years or older, you can get HPV tests as well and your wait time between pap smears can be a little longer. Pap smears and HPV tests are both effective in finding cervical cancer early enough to be cured.
There are also vaccines for cervical cancer that can protect women who are under 26 years from several strains of the HPV. However these vaccines do not offer protection against all strains of HPV that causes cancer therefore routine pap smears are quite important. It is also important to note that not all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

These are just a couple of health issues that women should make time to get screenings for. We’ll put more focus on women’s health in our future posts.

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