Essential Health Screenings All Women Should Have Done

January 31, 2022

When it comes to one's health, the best way to beat a disease is to take preventative measures. No one wants to spend more time in a doctor's office than they have to, but going through the necessary screening significantly increases the survival rate when a disease is caught in its early stages. Preventative care is more likely to be covered by insurance than some forms of treatment.

Women need to be proactive when it comes to taking care of their health. Preventative care is crucial when it comes to doing this. This type of care can prevent serious health issues from getting out of hand. This will often not only save patients money in the long run, since less invasive or intense treatment often costs less, it also helps reduce the likelihood of serious and lasting consequences and side effects from the health issues themselves.

Learn about all of the essential health screenings all women should undergo now.

Regular Physical Exam

A regular physical exam is important because it helps patients detect and prevent many health conditions early. There's no guarantee for what a physical exam will look like. An annual physical exam generally begins by doctors checking the patient's health history. Patients can bring up any concerns or questions they have about their health, and their doctor will ask patients about their lifestyle and vaccination status. The doctor will also check the patient's vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and respiration rate. A doctor might listen to the patient's heart to check them for heart disease or their lungs to check for lung issues. They may also do a head and neck exam by looking at the patient's teeth, tonsils, and other areas of the face. For women, their annual physical can often be combined with other essential health screening tests, including the mammogram and Pap smear.

Learn about these screening tests next.

Pap Smear

Over the past fifty years, the death rate from cervical cancer has declined by more than seventy-four percent thanks to regular screening. A Pap smear entails a swab of cells from a woman's cervix. Typically, a woman's first Pap smear should be when they reach twenty-one years old, roughly, or when they become sexually active. Women should undergo Pap smears once every three years up until they turn thirty years old. After this point, the American Cancer Society states women between thirty and sixty-five years old can have a Pap smear once every five years provided they are tested for the human papillomavirus at the same time. After a woman reaches sixty-five years old, they no longer require the test provided they do not have serious risk factors for cervical cancer and if their past Pap smears have come back normal. Women who receive abnormal tests will typically need to undergo another Pap smear immediately, and anyone whose test comes back with indicators of cervical cancer will need to discuss the appropriate course of action with their doctor.

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A mammogram is an X-ray of an individual's breasts that is intended to catch the early stages of breast cancer, which is crucial for the survival of the disease. By the time a woman reaches forty years old, they should have a mammogram every year. Regular breast exams should be done once a year by a woman's doctor even before they reach forty. If the mammogram reports anything abnormal, a woman's doctor may ask them to undergo an ultrasound or biopsy. Catching breast cancer in its early stages indicates a ninety-seven percent survival rate for five years from the time the disease is first detected.

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Screening For High Blood Pressure

Screening for high blood pressure is used to detect hypertension, which increases a patient's risk of stroke, renal insufficiency, premature death, and sudden death. Screening tests are done with a sphygmomanometer to detect blood pressure levels. Hypertension is defined by a reading of one hundred and forty millimeters of mercury or higher. Hypertension is usually diagnosed after two or more elevated readings during two or more visits over several weeks. Blood pressure medications are available, but diet and lifestyle interventions are also extremely effective in lowering blood pressure.

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Lipid Panel Blood Test

Lipids are a category of fats that play an important role in healthy cell function: energy sources. A lipid panel blood test is necessary to measure the levels of different lipids in an individual's blood, which in turn helps determine their risk of developing or currently having cardiovascular disease. Lipid panels are also used when patients already being treated for cardiovascular disease to monitor how well treatment is progressing. Adults who don't have any present risk factors should get a screening panel done once every four to six years. If an individual does have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, they should get monitoring panels done at regular intervals, during any cardiovascular treatment, or if their previous results indicated high lipid levels. The test is done by obtaining a blood sample. Patients will generally need to fast for nine to twelve hours before the test.

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Bone Density Test

Of the ten million individuals affected by osteoporosis, approximately eighty percent are women. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the individual's bones become quite brittle. In the five to seven years following menopause, women can lose up to thirty percent of their bone mass. A bone density test is the only test out there with the ability to accurately detect osteoporosis before a fracture or break occurs. Bone density tests require patients to lie on a table while X-rays scan their wrists, hips, and spine to measure vitamin D and calcium levels.

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Screening For Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases that occur when the body's insulin doesn't function properly. Sometimes the body doesn't make insulin at all, and sometimes the body doesn't make enough insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to process and use sugar. Without an adequate amount, blood sugar levels rise to toxic heights. Right now, it's estimated within the next twenty years, the number of individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the United States will reach forty-four million, which is about twice as many as are currently diagnosed. Medical professionals recommend diagnostic testing in patients whose clinical history predisposes them to diabetes, as well as if they exhibit symptoms. As many women have diabetes, this is a crucial health test for them, though it is also crucial for men.

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A colonoscopy is not how most individuals want to spend their afternoon, but it is a critical part of catching colorectal cancer before it gets out of hand, sometimes even before symptoms appear. As ninety percent of all colorectal cancer is treatable when caught in its early stage, most health professionals recommend for women to have their first colonoscopy done at age fifty. If no one in a patient's immediate family has been diagnosed with colon cancer and as long as no other digestive conditions exist, they will only need one every ten years to check for polyps.

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Other Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests

Colorectal cancer screening tests are recommended for everyone between fifty and seventy-five years old. The United States Preventive Services Task Force states individuals, both men and women, should first start getting screenings when they reach fifty years old, but other groups recommend starting at forty-five. About ninety percent of new colorectal cancer diagnoses are given to individuals who are at least fifty years old. It's vitally important to get screened because early detection can save the patient's life. If a woman has a family history of colorectal cancer, they may be at a higher risk of developing the disease. As such, they should talk to their doctor about whether screening should start before they are fifty years old. Aside from the previously mentioned colonoscopy, other choices for colorectal cancer screening tests include a sigmoidoscopy, CT colonography, and a double-contrast barium enema. In many instances, these are used when patients do not want or cannot have a colonoscopy, or as additional tests between colonoscopies when risk is higher.

A sigmoidoscopy can be done to view the lowest twenty inches of the patient's rectum and sigmoid colon, which allows the doctor to screen for intestinal polyps and colorectal cancer. A CT colonography is done by inserting a small tube into the rectum to allow inflation with gas so computed tomography images can be taken. Meanwhile, a double-contrast barium enema uses two contrast forms to take sharper x-rays of the colon.

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Skin Cancer Screening

Approximately one in every five individuals in the United States will develop skin cancer. There are many different types of skin cancer, but melanoma is the most dangerous. The good news is when melanoma is detected in its early stage, it has a high cure rate. Skin cancer screens are done by dermatologists and should take no more than a few minutes for a woman's doctor to determine if any blemishes, moles, or other markings on their body may be an indication of cancer.

These regular skin cancer screenings are crucial in nipping serious consequences of skin cancer in the bud, and are a prime example of why preventative health screenings are so important overall.

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Heart Exam

Heart attacks are the number one killer of women in the Westernized world. Because sixty-four percent of women do not experience traditional symptoms before sudden death, it’s crucial for women to have their hearts checked regularly. During a heart exam, the doctor will check the patient's blood pressure, listen to their heart for irregular heartbeats, check for shortness of breath, and will ask patients about their energy levels. A stress test and electrocardiogram may be necessary if patients are overweight or are smokers.

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