Diagnosing illnesses in their early stages helps treat them more effectively.
While an annual health check is essential for men and women, to ensure they are healthy, there are certain tests that are specific only to women. These tests and screenings help identify early onset of diseases that have a higher incidence in women. Diagnosing illnesses in their early stages helps treat them more effectively. Let us look at some recommended annual medical tests for women.
Components of a woman’s annual health check-up:
- BLOOD PRESSURE: It is one of the most common tests conducted in any health check-up or even a routine visit to the doctor. Individuals aged 18 and above must get their blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure or hypertension increases one’s chance for developing heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, visual disturbances, and sexual dysfunction. Those at higher risk of hypertension, may be required to check their BP more often than others.
- LIPID PANEL TEST: This involves a blood test to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High Cholesterol can cause blocks in the arteries, increasing one’s risk for heart disease. Women aged 40 and above must have this test done on a regular basis. This test is highly recommended for those with a family history of heart disease, and they may need to get it more than once a year.
- THYROID FUNCTION TEST: Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) are two very important hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. They play a vital role in metabolism. When thyroid hormone levels drop, metabolism slows down and disrupts other functions of the body as well. A spike in thyroid hormones can have an adverse impact on the heart, cause anxiety and even lead to sleep disorders. In women, low thyroid hormone levels can affect their menstrual cycle and delay conception.
- DIABETES & PRE-DIABETES TESTS: This involves a blood test to check glucose levels in blood and is recommended in women aged 40 and above. Women who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and hence must watch their weight. Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) also increases risk for diabetes, as does having a family history of the condition. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage nerves and blood vessels, and even lead to a heart attack or stroke.
- MAMMOGRAM: Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, and a mammogram can help detect the disease earlier on. A mammogram is essentially an x-ray of the breast tissue. It is recommended once a year for women aged 45 to 55, and once in 2 years thereafter. When detected earlier on, there is hope to successfully treat and cure breast cancer. Women aged 40 and above must routinely feel for lumps on and around their breasts, and should they find one, get it checked out immediately.
- PAP SMEAR TEST: A pap test is done in order to screen for cervical cancer. The test involves extraction of cells from the cervix and is often done in conjunction with a pelvic examination that checks the overall health of the female reproductive organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tube, vagina, vulva, uterus, and cervix. Women aged 21 and above can do a pap test once every three years.
- BONE DENSITY TEST: Since women are prone to osteoporosis, a condition in which bones turn porous and brittle due to bone loss, it is important to do a bone density test. Older women, especially those undergoing menopause are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Women aged 50 and above can do the DEXA scan to determine the health of their bones.
- COLONOSCOPY & SIGMOIDOSCOPY: Women aged 50 and above can be screened for colon cancer via a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. While the former examines the lower colon, the latter examines the entire colon. If no abnormalities are detected the sigmoidoscopy is repeated only once in five years, whereas a colonoscopy is called for only once in ten years.
- COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT: It is a commonly performed blood test. It detects variety of disorders including infections, anaemia, disease of the immune system and blood cancers. Abnormal red blood cell, haemoglobin or haematocrit levels may indicate anaemia, iron deficiency or heart disease. Low white cell count may indicate an auto immune disorder, bone marrow disorder or cancer. High white cell count may indicate an infection or reaction to medication.
- USG COMPLETE ABDOMEN: It is an important diagnostic method for evaluation of many structures in the abdomen. This test aids in the diagnosis of kidney stones, bladder stones, gall stones, cholecystitis, pancreatitis etc.
- ECG: It is a test which measures any abnormality in the electrical activity of the heartbeat. Abnormal ECG indicates any damage or change in the heart muscle, changes in the amount of electrolytes, enlargement of the heart and past or current heart attack. If any abnormality in ECG, ECHO should be performed.