Knowledge is Power
What does International Women’s Day mean for us? This day represents our continued mission of providing women across the nation with the information and resources they need to make educated health decisions. Informed patients know that preventative health is crucial, because it can catch diseases at an early stage before they become serious or life-threatening.
At our fibroid treatment centers, we believe knowledge is power. When women know all their options when it comes to treatment options, they can make informed decisions they feel confident about.
What Should I Be Aware Of?
With all the information on the Internet, it can be difficult to decipher what medical screenings are especially important for women. Here are the top 12 tests and exams to be aware of throughout your life:
Mammograms are recommended for women between the ages of 40-50; however, if you have an increased risk for breast cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend getting tested earlier and more frequently. Mammogram tests use low-energy X-rays to examine a woman’s breast. The X-ray can pick up masses throughout the tissue.
A pap smear tests for the human pailomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer or HPV. This test is performed every three to five years for women between the ages of 21-65. Pap smear tests screen for abnormalities and lower the risk of developing cancer.
Pelvic exams are performed to make certain that a woman’s reproductive system is healthy. During a pelvic exam, the doctor checks the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries, and uterus. Some doctors perform a pelvic exam during a routine pap smear. However, you can request a pelvic exam at any time if you notice changes in menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal pain or cramping, difficulty emptying your bladder, frequent urination, chronic constipation, etc. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and adenomyosis can be diagnosed through a pelvic exam. If you are diagnosed with uterine fibroids or adenomyosis, it’s important to see an Interventional Radiologist who can conduct further tests like an ultrasound or MRI to locate and treat the condition.
Colon Cancer Screening
Colon cancer tests may not be attractive to many; however, the number of people affected by colon cancer has increased significantly over the years. A colonoscopy is a test performed so that the doctor is able to look into the colon for polyps or cancer. The doctor is able to remove polyps or other tissue for examination during the procedure. Doctors recommend both men and women to get screened at the age of 50.
Doctors recommend a Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults 35-70 years of age. For individuals who have an increased BMI (body mass index), diabetes blood tests are recommended every three years. There are two tests used to screen for Type 2 diabetes: the fasting plasma glucose test and the oral glucose tolerance test.
Physical exams are one of the most important, yearly tests. This is a good time to update your medical records, ask your doctor questions, change medications, request a mental health exam or treatment, schedule important tests, and get crucial vaccinations. Skipping physical exams can be detrimental to your health because your doctor isn’t able to note any changes that have occurred over the past year. This is also a good time to measure pulse, weight, abdominal issues, blood tests, etc.
Osteoporosis and Bone Density Screening
Screening for Osteoporosis helps to estimate the density of your bones and the likelihood of breaking a bone. Bone density tests are typically recommended for the hip and spine. A DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) machine is used to diagnose osteoporosis and determine your risk. Women should get a bone density test at age 65, when bones typically become brittle. This test usually takes between 10-30 minutes and is conducted on your wrist or heel.
Skin exams vary for each person depending on how often you’re exposed to harmful UV rays. Even if you are not out in the sun very long, women should track the changes in moles to prevent skin cancer like melanoma. When you’re getting in or out of the shower, take time to check your body with a standing or hand mirror for new moles. It’s important to check yourself monthly; especially in spots you may not see everyday like your back or behind your neck.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Screening
Doctors typically start measuring your blood pressure and cholesterol when you turn 18 years old. It is recommended to have both your blood pressure and cholesterol measured every two years, especially if your family has a history of increased levels. The only way to identify hypertension (extremely high blood pressure leading to circulation and plaque buildup) is to get regular screenings. Cholesterol screenings can help reduce your risk for developing vascular disease later in life. During a cholesterol panel, your total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides are measured.
Despite their “taboos”, reproductive health is important for women of all ages. You can prevent the spread of harmful STDs/STIs (sexually transmitted diseases and infections) by getting screened yearly. All women who are planning to get pregnant, or who are pregnant, are recommended to be screened for HIV as well.
Doctors typically recommend women to go through a thyroid screening if they are aged 60 years or older. Women planning to get pregnant also are recommended to have their thyroid checked for any abnormalities. Tests for an overactive thyroid are called: T3, T3RU, T4, and TSH. An over-active thyroid can lead to serious health concerns like extreme weight loss, or irregular heartbeat.
Your Health Is in Your Hands
It’s important to write down and track changes in your body, so that you can ask questions and bring up symptoms to your doctor that may indicate an underlying issue. Even though many general practitioners will recommend these tests, it’s good to remember that your health is your decision. Keeping up to date with which tests you have done is your responsibility and you can take the initiative to have them completed.
Power is speaking up when something is wrong, and finding a solution that makes you feel confident. If you have questions during screenings or want to learn more about the test being performed, ask your doctor and do your research.