10 Health Screenings Every Woman Should Have, Especially If You’re Over 25
Our Health is not to be taken for granted in our modern society laden with stress and sometimes irrational indulgences. Each of us should make time for healthy habits such as exercising regularly and having a balanced diet. On top of those, routine health screenings should also be a part of your health protection measure.
The following 10 health screenings are important for every woman and play a vital role in early detection of various diseases.
Such screenings should be done even if you do not experience existing discomfort, and could make a world of difference in preserving your health and quality of life.
Blood Pressure & Heart Health Screening
Why you need it: To ensure that you are not at risk for heart disease, a leading cause of deaths of women in Singapore. Every day, 17 people die from cardiovascular disease (heart diseases and stroke) in Singapore. Cardiovascular disease accounted for 30.1% of all deaths in 2017. This means that 1 out of 3 deaths in Singapore, is due to heart diseases or stroke.
When and how often: Starting at age 20, you should have your blood pressure checked once every two years. If you have existing conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems and obesity, or a family history of hypertension and heart disease, you may be recommended to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.
What to expect: During your screening, your doctor checks your blood pressure. Ideally, your blood pressure should be below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) accodring to the American Heart Association (AHA). If your reading is higher than 130/90, you could be developing hypertension.
Your doctor also listens to your heartbeat for irregularities or murmurs, which may indicate medication or further checks. You should also let the doctor know if you have been experiencing chest pains or shortness of breath.
Lipid Profile/ Cholesterol Screening
Why you need it: One of the most effective tools to asses your risk for developing heart disease or stroke is to measure your cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol has also been linked to gallbladder disease.
When and how often: If you’re age 20 or older, you should have your cholesterol measured at least once every five years. More frequent monitoring may only be necessary if you have certain risk factors such as diabetes, heart diseases, kidney problems, or have sudden changes in lifestyle causing weight gain.
What to expect: A comprehensive lipoprotein profile measures the total cholesterol in your blood, which includes “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and triglycerides. If you’re at risk for heart disease, some doctors may test your apoB levels, a measure of fat particles in the blood.
Ideally, your total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl); a borderline high reading is between 200 and 239 mg/dl.
Why you need it: It is the best tool to detect cervical cancer in time for effective treatment. According to the Singapore Cancer Society, cervical cancer is currently the tenth most common cancer amongst women in Singapore. Every year, almost 200 new cases are diagnosed and 70 deaths occur from cervical cancer alone.
When and how often: An initial screening should be performed at age 21 or once a woman is sexually active, up till age 65. Pap smears could be done every 3 years. If you have multiple sexual partners, are a smoker, are HIV positive or have a Sexually Transmitted Disease, you should have a Pap smear screening annually.
What to expect: During the Pap smear, your doctor uses a speculum to widen the vaginal canal. This exposes the cervix allowing a sample of cells to be taken with a small brush. The sample is smeared onto a glass slide and then sent for analysis. The doctor will also perform a pelvic examination to check your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Your pap smear results will reflect your reading as normal or abnormal and requiring follow up with the doctor.
Mammogram & Clinical Breast Exam
Why you need it: Mammograms can detect the presence of cancerous lumps even before they can be felt with hand, it is currently the most reliable tool for early breast cancer detection. Despite being the most commonly occurring cancer amongst women in Singapore, more than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage remain well and disease-free after 5 years or more, compared to around 15% for women diagnosed at the most advanced stage.