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Protect Your Health: For Women

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Screenings are the best way to ensure that health problems are identified, diagnosed and treated at the earliest

How do you find out if you will be healthy or sick in future? Do you ask an astrologer? Or a tarot card reader? How about going to the hospital for a screening instead? Screenings are very useful for diseases that are slow-cooking and show little or no symptoms to begin with – such as the Big C. During a screening, doctors look for diseases that are just beginning to take root in your body and treat them even before you start feeling sick or showing any symptoms. Regular screenings are as important as, well, eating and sleeping regularly, more so for women.

Breast cancer, cervical cancer and growths in the abdominal organs can all be spotted by doctors in their early stages. Both cervical and breast cancer have no symptoms at all in the first stage. With screenings, doctors can usually catch the disease when it is merely a few cells old. The screening process can be followed by further diagnostics such as ultrasound, MRI and biopsy respectively. Treatment can quickly follow and complete cure is possible. In contrast, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer is in the third stage and has usually begun to spread.

Breast Cancer

The[v1]  frequency of scanning depends entirely on each person, their family history and their own medical history. In case of breast cancer, a high risk patient with a history of precancerous lesions or a strong family history of breast cancer, would need an annual mammogram as early as in her 40s. A patient without both these indicators could begin her mammograms by age 50. An ultrasound scan of the breasts usually accompanies a mammogram to confirm the results. There are things to observe when you are in front of the mirror. Patient should observe the shape, size, skin texture and color of your breasts. If you notice any of the following abnormalities, consult your doctor immediately:

  • Visible Lump
  • Swelling, redness and warmth
  • Changes in the size or shape of your breasts
  • Dimpling or retracted nipples (if this is not the case previously)
  • The skin on the breasts has the appearance of orange peel
  • Rashes, scaling or itching around the nipple
  • Abnormal discharge from the nipple such as blood-like fluid, or pus-like fluid
  • The skin on the breast or nipples pulled inward

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer screening is done through a Pap Smear and is recommended for all sexually active women annually. Between 21 and 29, a Pap Smear is recommended every 3 years. From the age of 30, co-testing is recommended every 5 years, i.e. a Pap Smear combined with an HPV test. This should continue until age 65. Cervical cancer is mostly slower and takes 5-10 years after being infected by HPV virus to become cancer. In the case of a high risk patient, a lot can change in three years. In one recent case, the disease had progressed from a precancerous lesion to an aggressive cervical cancer in just three years. Annual screenings and close follow ups would have been very useful in this case. However if patient found these symptoms, they should seek medical attention. These symptoms are abnormal discharge, irregular bleeding and bleeding after sexual intercourse.

Bone Mineral Density

Bone Mineral Density tests are important for post-menopausal women as loss of bone density is a significant concern. If the bone is thinner than usual, the doctor will prescribe hormones and calcium supplements. Annual follow-up is usually recommended to keep track of the progression of the disease. Osteoporosis happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. This bone disease is often called a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones getting weaker. Breaking a bone is often the first sign that you have osteoporosis or you may notice that you are getting shorter, feel cramps, muscle aches or your upper back is curving forward or bone pain. Please be sure to discuss with your doctor right away as the disease may be already be advanced.

A good doctor does more than just treat the current problem, she ensures her patients are screened against future health problems too. Get screened!

Photo Credit: Igor Menezes Fotógrafo via Compfight cc

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