An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and health screenings are one of the most important components of preventative health care. Controversial, conflicting, and changing health guidelines can make it tough to determine whether you're getting the care that you need. No one wants to rush around for unnecessary tests. So, what medical screenings do you need? We've taken the guesswork out of it for you. Here are the major screenings you need and how often you need them.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Women ages 21 to 65 should have regular screenings for cervical cancer. A pap smear is conducted to collect cells from around your cervix. This test helps detect cell abnormalities and cancer. It is also useful for identifying non-cancerous conditions such as inflammation and infection. A pelvic exam is also conducted to feel abnormalities in the shape or size of the vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Yes, it's the dreaded colonoscopy. The colonoscopy involves using a colonoscope, an instrument with a minute camera to examine your large intestine for polyps and other growths. Women aged fifty to seventy-five should obtain a regular screening. If you have a family history of the disease, screening might start a decade earlier for you. While the experience will vary, you should not remember much, if anything about the procedure. A colonoscopy is essential for picking up colon cancer or precancerous lesions. If polyps are found, the growths will be removed and biopsied.
Women aged 40 to 49 should check with their doctors regarding the recommended time to begin screening. Women aged 50 and older with an average risk of breast cancer should have routine screening every other year. While mammograms aren't perfect, they're the most effective tool we have for detecting breast cancer. When caught early, it's possible to prevent breast cancer from spreading.
It's important to see a dermatologist yearly and to perform monthly self-screenings to detect skin cancer. Risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Fair complexion
- Family history
- Excessive sun exposure
- Severe sunburns as a child
Knowing how to recognize the ABCDE's of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer can save your life. Look for:
- Asymmetry – when one-half of a mole or mark is different from the other
- Border – when the edges are blurred, ragged, notched, or irregular
- Color – look for uneven color and different shades
- Diameter – a spot that is larger than 6 millimeters across
- Evolution – changes that occur to a spot over a period
Sometimes it's hard to detect melanoma during a self-exam. It's also easy to miss areas like under the nails, the scalp, and between fingers and toes. You should use a mirror to check behind your ears and your neck.
This is by far the simplest screening you can have. Your blood pressure will be monitored during the annual physical exam, but you can also check your reading at home, or when you're out at a local pharmacy. The ideal range for a woman should be less than 120/80. Regularly monitoring your blood pressure can help lower chances of developing heart disease, hypertension, stroke, or heart attack. If your blood pressure starts consistently reading higher during your self-exams, you should consult your doctor immediately. With proper diet and medication, it's possible to bring a high blood pressure reading under control.
Many health conditions are easily prevented if preventative medical protocols are followed. It would be tragic to be diagnosed with a disease that you learned could have been prevented with early detection and attention. This is why it's so important for women to get screened regularly for these conditions.
Women spend a lot of time caring for others and their families, sometimes neglecting their health care concerns. Care giving is an important task, and you have to be healthy to be a successful caregiver. If you won't get early screening for your own sake, do it for the people you love.