Before I start, permit me to say that proper screening will not prevent disease but can detect a disease earlier and give the best chance of overcoming it.
1. Breast cancer screening – The cause of breast cancer are not completely understood, but it is now widely believed that genetic and hormonal factors are the primary risk factors. These days majority of breast cancer patients are diagnosed as a result of a lump or change in the consistency of the breast tissue and abnormality seen on a mammogram. Early detection of breast cancer has greatly led to improvement in survival rate, because the smaller the disease the less likely it spreads to lymph nodes and other organs like lungs and brain.
Every woman between 20 and 35 are encouraged to go for a clinical breast examination by a health professional once every 3years while women age from 40 and above should undergo mammography screening every 2years. This has the capacity to detect a lump between 2-3years before they start feeling the pains.
2. Cervical cancer – This starts as abnormality of cells on cervix and if not detected early or treated, it gradually invade normal cells of the cervix and the surrounding tissues or lymph nodes which eventually spreads to other parts of the body. If these lesions have not invaded normal cells of the cervix, treatment is very simple and straight forward. Since pre-cancerous changes of the cervix usually do not cause pain, they are not easily detected unless a woman takes a routine pelvic examination and pap test.
This screening test should start from the age of 21, because it’s effective both in early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. Recently the FDA has approved a vaccine called GARDASIL for girls and women between the ages of 13 and 28; it offers immunity against 4 strains of HPV which is the virus that is generally regarded as the leading cause of cervical cancer.
3. Skin cancer – Recent researches have shown that the rate of occurrence of skin cancer, especially in women cannot be over emphasized and that the most dangerous form has been identified to be Melanoma. It is a malignancy that affects the cells that produces pigment in the skin. Skin cancer risks have been proved consistently to increase with over exposure to the sun and sunburn. Routine screening of skin cancer by a dermatologist or other health care professional can go a long way in detection of this disease and early treatment can be effective.
4. High blood pressure screening – The persistent elevation of systolic blood pressure of more than 140mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of more than 90mmHg. It usually occurs when the blood pressure is forced through the arteries at an increased pressure. It is prevalent among adults between 35-60years of age and it can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney failure if not properly managed. The good news is that high blood pressure can be treated by regular monitoring and screening of the blood pressure to 120/80mmHg in adults. But without adequate treatment, the complications of high blood pressure are capable of reducing the life span of women and as a result of this all necessary preventive measure to lower the blood pressure must be embarked.
5. Screening for Type 2 Diabetes – This type of diabetes account for more than 80% of all diabetic diseases in men and women. Here the problem is resistance to insulin rather than insufficient production of insulin and as a result the body cells are not able to function properly. Early screening of type 2 diabetes has significantly help in detection and reduction of some risk associated with the disease. Diabetes is everywhere and more people are being diagnosed everyday with statistics showing over 20million people in United States to be diabetic and the number still increasing.
6. Cholesterol level screening – Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in cell membranes and transported in the blood plasma of all animals. But a high level of cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor of coronary heart disease, which can cause heart attack. Every woman should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 4years and any woman with a family history of heart diseases is always advised to go for screening every 2-3years.
7. HIV screening test – Once HIV enters the body, it damages the body by destroying specific blood cells CD4+T cells which are crucial in helping body fight diseases. Researches have shown that some people living with HIV may appear and feel healthy for years, however if they feel healthy HIV is still attacking their bodies. Early detection of HIV infection and immune system monitoring can greatly improve long-term health and knowing your HIV status can help you change behaviors that can put you and others at risk.
By discussing screening tests with your doctor makes good health sense and this should be a routine part of every woman.
The writer is a qualified medical doctor with over 20years experience, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. He is an author, researcher and consultant.