Avoiding Sensitive Surgery: 5 Checkups Women Need to Have Every Year
A new year is just around the corner. What better time than the start of a new year to take control of health and well-being? In addition to annual wellness checkups, women need regular screenings to help them avoid illness, “female problems” and sensitive surgeries.
Not all women need all health screenings, however. Doctors recommend certain checkups based on age, life stage, family history and other factors. It’s important to know what you need for yourself so that you can take care of yourself properly. Here are five checkups that most women need to have every year.
1. Cervical Cancer Screening
The Pap smear was the first cancer screening test ever developed. It can detect cancerous cells in the cervix, and it is essential for early detection of cervical cancer. All women should have a once-a-year Pap smear starting at age 21. Sexually active teenage girls should also have the test.
2. STI Screening
Sexually active women of any age should be screened annually for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These screenings check for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis and the human papillomavirus (HPV). They also detect the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and certain types of cancer.
3. Breast Cancer Screening
Breast cancer affects one in eight American women. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Early detection through screening, awareness and medical advancements has caused a drop in breast cancer deaths. Women who are 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram. Younger women should consider breast cancer screening if their family history includes the disease.
4. Colon Cancer Screening
Annual colon cancer screening should begin at midlife for most women. Those with a family history should be tested earlier. Annual screenings use fecal occult blood testing to look for blood in the stool. A colonoscopy, which looks for abnormal growths in the colon, is usually recommended once every ten years starting at age 50.
5. General Gynecologic Exam
Every woman should have a yearly gynecologic exam, with the first one occurring by age 18. In addition to a Pap smear, this annual visit can address everything from abnormal vaginal bleeding to breast lumps to sexually transmitted infections. It even allows a gynecologist to diagnose asymptomatic conditions to prevent GYN surgery and future child-bearing problems. For any women out there who are thinking of having children, making sure that you have a general gynecologic exam yearly is very important.
While these examinations may embarrass women, especially on the first visit, they are essential for female well-being. It’s also important to remember that the doctors performing these exams are professionals and will act as such during the entire appointment. A little embarrassment is worth it. The early detection they provide can mean the difference between life and death. In addition to the more sensitive screenings, women should also have yearly diabetes screenings and bone density, blood pressure and cholesterol tests to prevent other health problems down the road.