Women have their own health issues due to a complex reproductive system that makes them unique from men. A variety of diseases such as heart attack, depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), osteoarthritis, and urinary tract problems can affect women more severely than men. These problems necessitate them to visit their doctor in timely intervals in order to screen for various diseases. Screening tests can assess the risk for future illnesses and help in their early detection.
Common Tests for Women’s Health and Screening
Blood Pressure Check
Women with blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 or higher should have their blood pressure checked at least every year. Women with diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other related conditions also need to have their blood pressure checked regularly.
Women at risk for heart disease need to be screened between the ages of 20 and 45. Women aged 44 and above need to be screened every 5 years. Women with diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other conditions need to have their cholesterol levels checked more frequently.
Women aged 45 or above should get tested for diabetes every 3 years. Women with blood pressure above 135/80 will be recommended by their health care provider to check their blood sugar for diabetes.
Colon Cancer Screening
Women between the ages of 50 and 75, need to be screened for colon cancer. A stool test is recommended every year. A flexible sigmoidoscopy and barium enema is recommended every 5 years. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years. Additional studies may be scheduled by your doctor if you have a history of ulcerative colitis or any family history of colon cancer.
A dental exam and cleaning is recommended at least once in a year.
An eye examination is recommended every two years for women older than 45 or with vision abnormalities. You may need to be checked for glaucoma once you cross the age of 45.
A flu vaccine is recommended once a year. Women after the age of 19 should have a tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (TdAP) vaccine and a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination is recommended for women between the ages of 18 and 26. Women born after 1980, who have never had chickenpox, should receive two doses of varicella vaccine. Other vaccinations will be recommended by your health care provider if you are found to be at high risk for other diseases, such as pneumonia and shingles.
At least two physical exams are recommended in your 20s. Your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) will be checked during each examination. Women over the age of 40 should undergo a physical examination once every 5 years.
Women should perform a monthly self-exam of their breasts. Any lumps or other abnormalities noted in the breasts should immediately be reported to the doctor. Women between the ages of 20 to 40 need to have their breasts examined by a doctor once every 3 years, and a complete breast exam is recommended every year in women aged 40 and above. Depending on their risk factors for breast cancer, women over the age of 40 need to have a mammogram performed everyone to two years.
A bone density test should be performed in all postmenopausal women with fractures. Women under the age of 65, depending on their risk factors need to be screened for osteoporosis.
Cervical Screening or Pap Smears
CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL CERVICAL SCREENING PROGRAM (NCSP) FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
FROM 1 DECEMBER 2017:
- A five yearly Cervical Screening Test will replace the two yearly Pap test.
- Women who are already having Pap tests should have their first Cervical Screening Test when they are next due for a Pap test (this is usually two years after their most recent Pap test for those women with a normal screening history)
- Women who have ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years
- Women will be invited to start cervical screening from the age of 25 and continue screening until they are 74 years
- Women who have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) need to have regular cervical screening as the vaccine protects against some high-risk types of HPV, but does not protect against all oncogenic types
- Healthcare providers will still perform a vaginal speculum examination and take a cervical sample, but the sample medium is liquid-based for partial HPV genotyping
- The new Cervical Screening Test will be supported by a new National Cancer Screening Register that will send invitations and reminder letters to women when they are next due, and follow up letters when women have not attended further investigations or tests