There is a saying in medicine, adopted from Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Deep thought is not required to interpret this famous quote. You can ask yourself a simple question, a million different ways, and understand the meaning and importance of it. Would you rather have one cavity or ten cavities? Would you rather take blood pressure medicine or have a stroke? Heart attack or Lipitor? It goes on and on, but the point is always the same: catch a little problem before it becomes a big problem. That is the idea behind preventive medicine, preventive screenings, and preventive health.
But, where do you start? You start with your doctor, and regular checks of your health for those little problems that can develop into severe disease or debilitation later, if left unchecked. Here is a list of necessary preventive screenings for women.
And, also get some tips on preventing medication errors.
Bone Density Test
This test measures the density of your bones (your lower back, hip region, wrist and heel) to help determine your risk of developing osteoporosis, which is characterized by a loss of bone mass and makes bones more fragile and likely to break. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women age 65 and older be routinely screened. The USPSTF also suggests that routine screenings begin at age 60 for women with an increased risk.
The American Dental Association recommends regular dental checkups in which your dentist examines your teeth and gums. Regular dental exams will help detect tooth decay and oral cancer. In addition, your dentist can evaluate your bite and identify problems such as grinding your teeth or issues with your jaw joint. Find great tips from our dentist here.
Eye examinations can determine whether you need glasses or contact lenses, and can identify new vision problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following screening schedule:
- At least once between ages 20 and 29, and twice between ages 30 and 39.
- A baseline test at age 40, then as doctor recommends until age 64.
- Every one to two years beginning at age 65.
A hearing test determines if you have hearing loss. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends screening at least every 10 years through age 50, and every three years after age 50.
To check for skin cancer, your doctor will examine your skin from head to toe, looking for moles that are irregularly shaped, have varied colors, are asymmetric, are greater than the size of a pencil eraser, or have grown or changed since your last visit. The American Cancer Society recommends you have a skin exam every three years between the ages of 20 and 40, and every year thereafter. It is also important to check your own skin once a month.
Blood Pressure Screenings Healthy women with normal blood pressure (119/79 or below) should receive blood pressure screenings at least every two years. Preventive blood pressure screening can lead to early detection of high blood pressure.
Early detection is an important factor in the success of treating breast cancer. Screenings can lead to finding and treating a lump in your breast one to three years before you would have felt or noticed it.
Both the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommend that women start having mammogram screenings every one to two years starting at age 40. Regardless of age, high risk women should talk to their doctors about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often. NOTE: In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came out with new recommendations stating that most women should not start mammograms before age 50, and that it’s best for the tests to come every two years instead of annually.
A Pap smear looks for changes in the cells within the cervix. These changes can predict cervical cancer or conditions that could eventually develop into cancer. The ACS’s recommendations for yearly Pap smears are: at age 18, three years after having sexual relations or at age 21 if you haven’t been sexually active. After age 21, the ACS suggests the following screening schedule:
- Age 21 to 29 – at least every two years.
- Age 31 to 69 – every two to three years if you’ve had three normal tests in a row.
- Age 70 and older – you may stop having Pap tests if you’ve had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap tests for the last 10 years.
NOTE: In November 2009, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended that Pap smears should not start being given until age 21, given every two years instead of annually, and even less frequently after age 30. Learn about Vulvar dermatology
A pelvic exam allows doctors to look for signs of illness within the organs including the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and rectum. Current guidelines recommend that women who are or who have been sexually active should have a pelvic exam every 1 to 3 years after having 3 consecutive normal exams. Medical insurance quotes are available here.
Undesirable levels of cholesterol raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. Women aged 20 or older should have their cholesterol tested every 5 years, or more frequently if your doctor recommends it. A simple blood test will evaluate your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Heart attacks are the number one cause of death for women each year. see Elizabeth Banks take on a woman having a heart attack
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer screening tests detect cancerous cells and growths (polyps) that may become cancerous on the inside wall of your colon. Not everyone needs to be tested for colon cancer; your need for screening depends on your risk level. Three major factors influence your risk for colon cancer:
- You are age 50 or older.
- You have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps.
- You have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.