Top Ten Health Screening Tests Females Should Do
Health screenings are medical tests that doctors look for diseases before there are any symptoms. Learn about top ten health screening tests females should do.
Bone Density Test
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 10 million elderly in the United States are suffering from osteoporosis (disease that causes decrease in bone mass or thinning of bone and thus the bones become more fragile and more likely to break), of which 80% of them are women.
After postmenopausal for 6 to 7 years, women will lost as much as 30% of the bone mineral. Postmenopausal women with weight less than 57kg, heavy smokers or those who had non-traumatic fracture during their adulthood or have experienced bone loss or bone trauma, have taken certain medications such as corticosteroids, prednisone, dilantin, barbiturates and thyroid replacement medication that may have led to bone loss as a side effect, women who have been on HRT/ERT (hormone replacement therapy) for prolonged periods, have a family record of osteoporosis, fracture(s), hyperthyroidism (a condition in which an overactive thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones that circulate in the blood) and other related clinical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, should have their bone density checked. This test is also recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force for all women aged 65 and older to get their bones checked at least once a year.
Bone density, densitometry or DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) uses special X-rays to measure how many grams of your calcium and other bone minerals that are packed into a segment of your bone. The higher the mineral content, the denser and the stronger the bones will be and vice versa. The test determines if you have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis before your bones become fragile and break easily.
DEXA screening is considered the most accurate bone density check. It is painless and the patient is exposed to less radiation as compared to a standard chest X-ray. While lying with your clothes on the bed, your spine, hip and wrist will be scanned. If your bone density is extremely low, the doctor will suggest you to do a urine test in order to diagnose how fast your bone loss. This test requires you to do once a year. If your urine test shows that you suffer from osteoporosis, the doctor may suggest you to take at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 to 800 lus vitamin D for daily supplement.
Clinical Breast Examination and Breast X-ray
Breast Cancer Cells
Both examinations are important to diagnose whether you have a breast cancer or not. Approximately 97% who went through these examinations will not relapse for at least 5 years.
When females reach 20 years old, they should get their breasts examined. Normally, doctor will do a routine check by pressing around the breasts to see whether there are any anomalies. Females who are in their 40s and above should have clinical breast exam (CBE) and mammogram (a picture of the breast made with X-rays and it is also the best tool for doctor to detect breast cancer early) screening every 1 to 2 years. After the age of 50, females should receive a screening mammography every year. At the end of the menstrual period, the breasts tend to become harden which is also the best time to do the Breast X-ray examination. During a clinical breast examination, the doctor will look for differences in size or shape, dimpling, or other abnormal signs between your breasts. Your nipples may be squeezed to check for fluid. This thorough clinical breast examination may take you approximately 10 minutes.
Breast X-ray examination using a regular X-ray examination. If you have done this X-rays, you should bring along your previous mammograms or medical records so that the doctor can do a comparison with the newly taken mammogram. If your breast examination showed some abnormalities, such as a small lump or tumor, then the doctor will do a breast ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Breast Imaging, MRI (a test help to distinguish between non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) lesions). Your breast is not exposed to radiation as this ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves instead of X-rays. These inspections are necessary to identify whether the tumor is hard enough for a biopsy (the removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist). The biopsy is one of the methods to tell for sure if cancer is existed.
Females should do this test before the critical symptoms of colon (the last portion of your digestive tract or gastrointestinal tract). The test is done to prevent colon cancer. Approximately 90% of the colon cancer is curable at the early stage.
Doctor recommends females who reach 50 years old to have a colonoscopy check. If your family has a record of colorectal cancer, chronic inflammatory bowel disease or certain hereditary syndromes, including familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP (an inherited colorectal cancer syndrome), people with a high risk of colon polyps before 50 years old, your risk of getting colon cancer is higher. In this case, you should get your colon checked every 5 years. If the initial check of your colon does not show any abnormalities, and you do not have a family member with a colon cancer’s record, then you may do this test every 10 years.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis
Colonoscopy is a very standard, accurate diagnostic test for your colon, or large intestine. It is most often used to diagnose for the early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. This test takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes and the sedative and pain medicine will keep you feeling discomfort and mild cramping during the examination.
To perform this colonoscopy examination, your doctor uses a device called colonoscope, a flexible viewing tube with lenses, a small TV camera and a light on the end, to check whether you have the intestinal polyps, inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers or other growths (polyps, sites of bleeding and other conditions such as colitis or inflammation of the colon) through bundles of flexible glass fibers and a small video computer chip (colonoscope scans) inside your colon in order to transmit images to a video screen so the doctor can examine carefully the lining of the colon.
If the polyps are found in your colon, your doctor may use a wire loop attachment to remove the entire polyps. The polyps will then be sent to a lab for further analysis. Though most polyps are not cancerous they may develop into cancer. You may also have to do an operation or a general inspection every 3 or 5 years based upon the final results of this test.
Hearing Loss Test
This hearing (audiometric) test is to check for the degree of hearing loss and to identify how severe your hearing is. In general, the test evaluates a person’s ability to hear sounds that reach the inner ear through the ear canal (air-conducted sounds) and sounds transmitted through bones (bone-conducted sounds). If you are suffered from hearing loss, preventative measures can be taken to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
Those who have difficulty in listening other people’s speech or your ears get humming sound regularly, or you have a family member with hearing loss’s record, then you should go to hospital for such test. Otosclerosis or any genetic disorders can lead to the middle ear bone non-normal growth, and this condition is more obvious in females than males, particularly obvious in pregnant women and females with age range from 15 to 30 years old.
The doctor will let you hear the voices by putting on headphones, in order to check your ability to distinguish between different sound waves or tones. He may also use an otoscope (a lighted instrument) to find problems in your ear canal, eardrum, middle ear, including earwax (an obstruction in the ear canal), infection in the ear, or injury to the ear.
If you have any symptoms suggesting a hearing problem, your doctor may want you to do a standard hearing evaluation. If the test shows that you have a very serious hearing loss which causes great difficulty of hearing, the doctor will get you hearing aid to assist in your hearing. If your hearing tests are normal, then you only need to do a follow-up inspection every 2 to 5 years.
A comprehensive eye test
A comprehensive eye test is necessary to check whether you are suffering from any eye diseases, such as visual conversion, or AMD (age-related macular degeneration), glaucoma or cataract eyes. The vision caused by glaucoma can be curable if early and appropriate treatment is given to the patients.
Even if you have good eyesight, you should get an ophthalmic examination and a follow-up of eye check every 2 years till you reach the age of 65. After the age of 65, you should get your eyes checked every year. If you have a family member who has any eye diseases or diabetes mellitus, you should get your eyes checked before 40 years old. If you are wearing contact lenses, you should get your eyes checked every year. People who have decreased vision, specks in the vision, veil blocking vision, significant eye injury or eye pain, crossed eyes (strabismus), bulging of one or both eyes, double vision, hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (an optical defect, whereby vision is blurred due to irregular curvature of the cornea or lens), presbyopia (an eye condition in which the lens of the eye shows a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age), loss of peripheral vision, thyroid disease-related eye problems are encouraged to perform annual comprehensive eye examinations.
Ophthalmologists will perform a series of tests to evaluate the overall health of your vision. They will also check for eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataract, diabetes, hypertension, retinal detachment and etc. The elevation of intraocular pressure or IOP (a fluid pressure inside the eye) may be symptoms of glaucoma. They will check whether there are brain tumors within the optic nerve, any anomalies within the cornea and iris, retinal degeneration and the build-up of yellow spots within the retinal cells or deterioration of retinal cells.
If your eyesight is poor, the doctor may suggest you to wear a pair of glasses or contact lenses. If you have the symptoms of glaucoma, the doctor will advise you to treat with eye drops at the initial stage. As for the worse cases, the laser and surgery will be carried out. Vitamins and laser treatment are vital to retard the speed of degeneration of yellow spots from becoming worsened.
According to the survey conducted by the American Dental Association, this dental check is essential to prevent oral cancer (one of the six cancers commonly found within the adults in the United States), gum diseases and caries.
If you are pregnant, or are taking contraceptives, the risk of getting gingivitis (a form of periodontal disease which involves inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums (gingival), the periodontal ligaments and the tooth sockets or alveolar bone) is higher. Similarly, heavy smokers and those who take alcoholic drinks 1 to 2 times a day or more may also have greater risks of getting gingival disease and oral cancer.
Normally, the dentists will check your mouth, teeth, tongue, and look for soft tissue, hard tissue, swollen and red-purple gums of your oral, neck, chin carefully to identify whether there are any anomalies. The gums will become mildly tender when there is a deposit of plaque and tartar at the base of your teeth.
If you have gum disease, dentists would recommend you to do dental cleaning at least twice a year. You may need to do plaque and tartar cleaning too. If there is a non-normal tissue growth, dentist may advise you to do a biopsy diagnosis. In the case of chronic gingivitis, the dentists may also advise you to do dental X-rays and dental gingival probing (measuring the amount of bone) to evaluate whether the inflammation and infection has spread to the supporting structures of your teeth.
Heart Health Screening
Heart disease has been regarded as the first major women’s health killer. Approximately 64% of the women died of a sudden heart attack, without any prior signs or symptoms. Thus, it is very important to do a heart health screening which can help detect early stages of heart disease, so that the appropriate and best course of diagnostic treatment can be performed immediately.
Congenital Heart Disease
Females who are in their 20s should get their heart checked on an annual basis. This test is extremely important for those who have a family history of hypertension and history of congenital heart disease (an abnormality of the heart’s structure and function caused by abnormal or disordered heart development before birth). People who are aged over 45, overweight, and heavy smokers are also encouraged to have their heart checked annually. If you are healthy women with no unusual symptoms, then you should do the following screening tests according to the schedules recommended by the Main Line Health Heart Center in Philadelphia as follows:
Blood pressure & pulse
Every 5 yrs.
Every 5 yrs.
Every 5 yrs.
Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Every 5 yrs.
Every 5 yrs.
Every 5 yrs.
Every 3-5 yrs.
Doctor will check your blood pressure and listen to the sound of your heart beating to diagnose your health status. If you have a chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue easily, heart disease experts will ask you to do blood pressure checks and ECG (an electrocardiogram, a diagnostic tool use to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats as well as the size and position of the chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart), to help determine your heart health. If your doctor diagnosed irregular heartbeat or if you have palpitation illnesses, which may indicate that your heartbeat is abnormal where the medical treatment is necessary. If your blood pressure is greater than 130/90 mm Hg, you may be suffering from hypertension.
Blood Lipid analysis
The most effective preventative ways of heart disease is by checking your cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol levels will not only increase the risk of heart attack or stroke risk, but also increased the risk of getting gallbladder disease.
This inspection should be conducted when you reach 20 years old. If the test results are normal, then you should do a follow-up test every 5 years till you reach the age of 45. If you have a family history of heart disease, or your cholesterol level is higher than 200, then you need to do an annual blood lipid analysis.
During the blood lipid analysis, doctor will base upon the total cholesterol values listed below as target therapy:
- Desirable: Under 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- Borderline high: 200 to 239 mg/dL
- High risk: 240 mg/dL and higher
Lipoprotein comprehensive analysis will detect your blood levels of total cholesterol, and triglyceride ester. If you have the risk of suffering from heart disease, doctors will check your apOB (apolipoprotein B is the primary apolipoprotein of low density lipoproteins, LDL or bad cholesterol) level. If your total cholesterol level is above 200, doctors will suggest you to change your diet habits, exercise regularly in order to improve the cholesterol levels.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Melanoma On the Leg of 60-year-old Woman
Melanoma (malignant tumor found predominantly in the skin, bowel and the eye) is a fatal tumor found commonly among females over 30 years old. Their probability of getting BCC (basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer) and squamous cell carcinoma ( a form of cancer of the carcinoma type that may appear in different parts of body, including the skin, lips, mouth, esophagus, prostate, lungs, vagina and cervix)is extremely high. However, in the early stage, the curable possibility can reach to as high as 95%.
Females who aged 30 years old should start doing skin check annually. If you already suffered from basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, or have a family history of skin cancer, or you have lots of mass all over your body, or you have freckles, it is advisable to do this inspection twice a year.
Dermatologists will check your body, including the scalp, ears, the skin between the toes, freckles, skin tumors and the growth conditions. Doctors will check any large mass or abnormal mass using digital image scanning.
Cervical Cancer Screening
This test is performed to detect the early stage of cervical cancer. When the cancer is detected early, real time, effective and prompt treatment can be conducted. In the past 50 years, this disease mortality has declined by 74%, mainly due to the cervical cancer screening.
Papillomaviruses or HPV
This screening is best to be done when females reach 21 years old. When you have more nipples, and is infected with malignant human papillomaviruses(a type of sexually transmitted diseases that causes warts of the hands and feet; they may infect the skin and mucous membranes of the oral, anal and genital cavities of humans and a variety of animals), the inspection should be done once a year. If you are a heavy smoker, have multiple sex partners or have sexual intercourse with other males at a very young age or who had many previous sexual partners, or suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth, weakened immune system due to factors including an organ transplant, chemotherapy (the use of chemical substance to treat disease) or chronic corticosteroid use, then the inspection should be carried out once a year. If you are over 30 years old, you may ask your doctor to do HPV (human papillomavirus) inspection for you.
In this cervical cancer screening, doctor will insert a speculum (a medical tool used for examining body cavities) gently into your vagina in order to take a sample of your cervical cells and then smear them onto the glass slide before sending the slide for the laboratory diagnosis. This inspection is more secure and effective than the traditional cervical smear screening test.
If your cervical smear screening test shows that you have abnormal cervical cells, doctors will allow you to do a HPV inspection. If the HPV test was positive, then you may need to do a colposcopy (an instrument that shines a light on the cervix and magnifies the view for your doctor to examine your genitals, vagina and cervix closely) inspection. If your result showed that the situation is not normal, you may need to do a cervical living tissue biopsy.
Test results for Cervical Cancer Screening:
Normal: non-cancerous cells
ASCUS (squamous cells or glandular cells): abnormal changes in ASCUS may have high risk infection with HPV
Low-Grade: infection with HPV and it can be risk for cervical cancer.
High-Grade: very atypical cells that may result in cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma: cancer is evident and requires immediate treatment
Other Special Inspections
People who have problems like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, frequently feel thirsty, tired easily, blurred vision, or a family history of diabetes should undergo this inspection.
In this inspection, doctor will ask you to do a blood test to test your glucose test level while you are fasting. If your first check is normal, you should do this inspection once a year.
Everyone is advised to do this thyroid test. This test is essential to check how well your thyroid gland is functioning.
People who have a family history of thyroid, or suddenly confronted with fatigue, weight gain (or lower) or depressed should go for this test. Females who are in their 30s or older, or those at high risk for thyroid disorders including pregnant and postpartum (physical, emotional, depressed and behavioral changes that most new mothers experience following the delivery of their babies) women, and asymptomatic (a person who is infected with an infectious disease or carries the abnormal gene of a recessive genetic disorder but shows no symptoms at all) females over 60 are recommended by The American Thyroid Association to screen for thyroid disease with a thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH) every 5 years.
The blood test is performed to check for TSH levels. For females, low levels of TSH, may indicate the symptom of hyperthyroidism (a condition in which an overactive thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones that circulate in the blood). If high levels, they hinted that the lack of thyroid function.
The following table summarizes types of thyroid test results and their potential meaning:
|High||Normal||Normal||Mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism|
|High||Low||Low or normal||Hypothyroidism|
|Low||Normal||Normal||Mild (subclinical) hyperthyroidism|
|Low||High or normal||High or normal||Hyperthyroidism|
|Low||Low or normal||Low or normal||Rare pituitary (secondary) hypothyroidism|
Ovarian cancer happens more commonly in women over age 50, but it can also affect younger females. As its causes are unknown it is hardly to diagnose or detect at the early stage. This is because females with ovarian cancer show no symptoms or mild symptoms until the disease is in a progressive and advanced stage.
People who have a family history of ovarian cancer, or those who suffer pelvic pain, abnormal periods, unexplained back pain that gets worse, bleeding from the vagina, pain in lower abdomen, heavy and pain feeling in pelvis, gas, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite need to do this examination.
Ovarian cysts: a dermoid cyst (mature cystic teratoma) after opening the abdomen
Ovarian cysts: A 24-cm diameter multilocular right ovarian cyst is seen adjacent Fallopian tube and uterus.
This test uses abdominal ultrasound or transvaginal ultrasound device which is a stick-shaped vaginal ultrasound scanner used to find any foreign substances such as tumors or cysts (a pouch of tissue that may be filled with air, fluid, pus or other material and they can develop in the ovaries) within the ovarian. The treatment is usually a surgery followed by treatment with medicines.
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