Health checks that may save a woman’s life

female doctorLet’s face it, we all live busy lives. Sometimes a visit to your doctor for a check-up seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you are juggling so many other things.

However, a regular check-up could just save your life.

Here are some of the most common screening tests that can make a difference to women’s health.

Breast screening

Early detection of breast cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Breast cancer can be detected by a clinical breast examination and mammography screening.

Women in Australia with no breast symptoms, aged between 50 and 69 are eligible to participate in BreastScreen Australia’s free breast cancer screening program. Every two years, women in this age group are recalled to have a screening mammogram. Women aged 40-49 are also welcome to attend, but they do not receive a two-yearly reminder.

Talk to your health practitioner about which method of screening is best for you.

Cervical screening

Regular Pap smears help protect against cervical cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers, as long as it’s detected early, so it’s important to have them, as unpleasant as they are. It is recommended that women over 18 who have ever had sex should have a Pap smear every two years. Regular cervical screening can prevent the most common form of cervical cancer in 90 per cent of cases.

Cholesterol and blood pressure

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer for Australian women? Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If you are over the age of 40, you should have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Talk to your general practitioner how often you need to be tested, but the general recommendation is once a year.

Bone density testing

Osteoporosis is characterised by a thinning of the bones causing them to fracture or break easily. While both men and women are at risk of developing the disease, women are more at risk after reaching menopause. This is because of lower levels of oestrogen. Bone density testing can identify osteoporosis.

Before heading off for a bone density test, your doctor will review any risk factors you may have for osteoporosis, and any other diseases or medications that may impact negatively upon the health of your bones.

Next time you visit your doctor, make sure you discuss your bone health.

Bowel screening (Colorectal cancer screening)

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers for Australians over 50 years of age. Around 80 Australians die of the disease each week. A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects tiny amounts of blood (often released from cancers or pre-cancers) in the stool.

Women with no family history of the disease should be screened every two years, after the age of 50. If there is a family history of bowel cancer, seek the advice of your general practitioner.

So don’t put off that check-up any longer. Invest the time in looking after your health. You are worth it.

Further information:

BreastScreen Australia Program

National Cervical Screening Program

Osteoporosis Australia

The Heart Foundation

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

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