Women’s Day: Tests women over 25 should take to prevent risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer

Written by Dr. Venkatesh DB

Diagnostic tests are an important part of women’s health and there are several tests that women should have after the age of 25 to ensure their overall health and well-being. Common diagnostic tests that women should consider after age 25 include the following:

Pap smear: A pap smear is one of the important diagnostic tests recommended for cervical cancer screening. The test involves taking cells from the cervix, which are then examined for the presence of abnormalities that indicate growth or precancerous changes. Early detection leads to better results. If these changes are detected, further treatment can be given to prevent cervical cancer from developing. Women should have Pap smears after age 30 at least once every five years if they choose liquid-based cytology, commonly known as the LBC mode, or once every three years if they choose the conventional way. LBC has the potential to detect a specific type of mutant human papilloma virus (HPV) that is strongly associated with cervical cancer. It is also advised that women get vaccinated against HPV infection, which is a preventable cause of cervical cancer.

Periodic Screening with Mammography: Breast self-examination is the best way to detect any early changes in its structure. This can help women spot even small changes that can be immensely beneficial. A mammography is a highly sensitive screening tool that uses low-dose X-rays to detect breast cancer. This test can identify very small tumors that cannot be felt by physical examination, making it an effective way to detect the disease early and start treatment. According to American Cancer Society guidelines, women ages 45 to 54 with an average risk of breast cancer should have an annual mammogram. Women over age 55 can have mammograms every two years or continue yearly. Women can continue to be screened with mammograms as long as their general health is good with a life expectancy of 10 years or more.

A pelvic exam, on the other hand, helps check the health of your reproductive organs, including your vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, and cervix. If you notice symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, cysts, have suffered from a sexually transmitted disease, or have a family history of cancer, get these tests more often.

Osteoporosis detection with bone density test: A bone density test assesses the strength of the bones, allowing early detection of osteoporosis. This condition is more prevalent among women after menopause, and a bone density test can determine fracture risk and the need for treatment. Women age 65 and older should have a bone density test every two years or sooner if they are at high risk of developing osteoporosis.

Lipid profile and metabolic screening: Changes in the lifestyle of working women and the resulting stress make them vulnerable to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Women over 25 should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. The lipid profile measures total cholesterol levels and it is crucial to check these levels regularly as they can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Women age 25 and older should have a lipid profile test every five years and an HbA1c test at least once a year. However, if they have a family history of heart disease or have developed high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy that continues even after delivery, they should consider getting tested more often. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease in women more than men. Lung cancer is also showing an increasing trend in women as a consequence of smoking. It is advisable for women in high-risk categories to undergo a complete cardiovascular check-up, including an exercise stress test.

Thyroid test: The TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test measures this hormone. TSH levels that are too high or too low can be a sign of a thyroid problem. Testing is required once a year to screen for thyroid disorders.

Blood pressure monitoring: Hypertension is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and it’s important to check regularly, especially if women have one or more risk factors, such as obesity or a family history of heart disease.

Diabetes screening: Doctors say women should have a blood glucose test every three years to check for diabetes or pre-diabetes starting at age 45 or if their blood pressure is above 135/80 or if they have high cholesterol levels . Other risk factors include family history and a sedentary lifestyle. A fasting plasma glucose test reading of 100 mg/dl or higher is indicative of pre-diabetes, while levels greater than 126 mg/dl are suggestive of diabetes. Your doctor may want to look at your post-meal blood sugar readings and HbA1c value to make a final diagnosis.

STD test: Women are prone to developing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), especially if you have unprotected sex, and some can have serious consequences if left untreated. Sexually active women should be tested for STDs, including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, on a regular basis. Testing is especially important for women with multiple partners, as they are at increased risk of getting STDs.

It is important to remember that preventive measures, such as regular checkups, can help women maintain their health and well-being. Routine screening can help catch conditions early, when they are most treatable, and improve overall health outcomes. Women should discuss their individual screening needs with their physician to determine the correct screening schedule.

Women’s Day: Tests women over 25 should take to prevent risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer

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