Preventative health risk screening is the key to a disease-free life. Chronic disease, premature disability, abnormal aging and shortened lifespan are all generally avoidable if women are educated about their unique health risks and are willing to make good choices regarding health related behaviors! One of the greatest health risks currently facing all women is lack of information. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to personal health status and breast cancer prevention.
These nine basic recommended screening exams for women are not expensive or complicated. These guidelines are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and are supported by a review of the current medical literature.
1. Blood Pressure
This should be tested every two years at a minimum if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80). Annual measurements are advised if your readings are mildly elevated (between 120-139/80-89). Readings over 140/90 should be discussed with your doctor and treated accordingly.
2. Bone Mineral Density Test (Osteoporosis Screening)
This should be tested at least once by age 65 and preferably sooner if you are at risk for osteoporosis. You may be at risk if you are a smoker, underweight, have a sedentary lifestyle, drink excessive alcohol or soda, have a poor diet (especially low in calcium and vitamin D) are Caucasian or Asian, have a history of previous fractures or if osteoporosis is in your family history. Some prescription medications can also cause decreased bone density. Hip fractures are associated with significantly higher mortality rates in women, but with early diagnosis and proper treatment of osteopenia or osteoporosis hip fractures are preventable.
3. Mammogram (Breast Cancer Screening)
Start having mammograms at age 50, once every two years. If you have a family history of breast cancer, discuss the proper frequency of testing with your doctor. Additionally, women should do monthly self-breast exams. Most breast cancers are totally curable if detected early!
4. PAP Test (Cervical Cancer Screening)
Starting at age 21, PAP and HPV tests are recommended every three years. After age 40 continue to have them every three to five years if the tests are normal.
5. Sexually Transmitted Disease Screening
Chlamydia tests should be issued annually to sexually active females. This highly contagious sexually transmitted disease is curable when diagnosed. Gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis tests should be discussed with your doctor as they are administered based on age, sexual activity and risk factors.
6. Serum Lipid Panel
Women should check their cholesterol starting at age 20. The frequency of the testing should be based on overall risk for heart disease or stroke. The good news is that early diagnosis, treatment and healthy lifestyle choices will prevent mortality from heart disease.
7. Colorectal Cancer Screening (Stool Blood Testing or Colonoscopy)
Starting at age 50, we recommend an annual fecal occult blood test and a sigmoidoscopic exam every ten years, as long as the last exam is normal. Deaths from metastatic colon cancer are preventable with proper screening and early removal of precancerous lesions, which can be done at the time of the exam.
8. Serum Glucose (Diabetes Screening)
Annual blood glucose measurement is necessary for all women who have hypertension, are overweight or have a strong family history of diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes is a major risk factor for premature cardiovascular disease, loss of vision, nerve damage and premature all-cause mortality. Well over 90% of all new diabetics have Type 2 diabetes which is treatable with lifestyle intervention if detected early!
9. BMI (Body Mass Index)
This test is computed using your height and weight. There is an epidemic of overweight (BMI>25) and medical obesity (BMI>30) at all ages. Obesity is known to cause, increase the severity of, make more difficult to treat, and/or complicate most all other chronic diseases. It is now scientifically linked to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, many forms of cancer, dementia, surgical complications, musculoskeletal disease and all-cause mortality.
If all women abide by these recommendations an untold number of lives could be saved and billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs could be avoid annually. KNOW your NUMBERS. Don’t be uninformed. Get tested for yourself and your loved ones!