Vital Signs

The Official Blog of Virtual Wellness

What Every Woman Should Know...

Getting recommended screening tests are one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Screening involves medical tests that doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms.

Screening detects a problem early when they may be easier to treat effectively.

They are also able to identify if a patient is at risk or has condition, that was not previously known.

A basic health screen involves a physical examination by your doctor with bio-physical measurements (height, weight, body mass index, visual acuity, colour vision), blood and urine investigations.

A normal result after a screening test means you are at low risk of having the condition.

This however does not suggest you will never develop the condition in the future.

If you have a higher-risk result (a screen positive result) it indicates you may have the condition that you've been tested for and you will then be offered further tests (called diagnostic tests) to confirm.

The types of tests a woman needs depend on her age, personal and family health history, as well as specific risk factors.

Certain tests are recommended for every woman while others are individualized depending on additional risk factors.

Recommendations for screening in women:

  • Body Mass Index ( screening for obesity ) from age 18

  • Blood pressure screening should be done every two years from age 20, women aged >40 should be screening yearly especially those with associated medical problems

  • Blood glucose testing can start around age 45, however if a significant family history of diabetes is present you can start earlier with fasting plasma glucose tests (blood sample)

  • Cholesterol check should be started at age 20, and be based on results for further screening and monitoring

  • Breast examinations by your doctor every 3 years if you are between ages 20-30 and yearly at age >40. Clinical examination does not replace the mammogram which should be started age 50

  • Papsmears should be every three years from age 21 until age 65

  • Human Papilloma Virus specific testing which causes cervical cancer

  • Screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections if planning pregnancy

  • Osteoporosis – bone density testing at age 65

  • Colon cancer screening at age 50 – colonoscopy

The use of contraception prevents pregnancy related health risks, decreases infant mortality rates and provides non health benefits such as expanded education and opportunities as well as empowerment for women, especially for younger women.

As part of the education and screening process, contraception should be offered to all sexually active women who wish to prevent pregnancy and by extension some sexually transmitted diseases.

The methods of contraception include barrier (able to prevent sexually transmitted infections and can be combined with other types contraceptions) , hormonal (may reduce the risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers ), intra-uterine devices (long lasting and reversible) and sterilization procedures (no maintenance and highly effective) .

The effectiveness, pros and cons of each method can be discussed with your doctor.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Diagnosing and treating conditions early offers the best chance of maintaining and restoring health.

Look after your mental health as well.

Dr. Sitara Sookdeo, MD, is a practicing medical doctor at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, Trinidad. She is also an on-call physician on Virtual Wellness.

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Health Disclaimer:

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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