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You vaccinated your children and take them for regular health check-ups. But what about your own health? Here is a list of medical tests for women of all ages.
As children, we have all taken vaccinations to prevent ourselves from several diseases. Growing up, there aren’t as many jabs. However, it does become important to continuously monitor and keep track of our health.
Just like vaccines prevent diseases, medical tests diagnose and track your health. This in its turn helps you take the appropriate medical action in case of health alerts.
It is especially important for women, often as the last people within families to prioritise themselves, to follow routine checkups and have updated health records.
However, it is important to bear in mind that all medical reports need to be reviewed by a trained physician. What may seem normal to one person, may not be the same for another. Especially when it’s dependent on age and overall health conditions.
Keeping women in mind, we came up with a list of important medical tests that are listed according to age. These are medical tests that need to be undertaken as preventive measures to avoid the risk of life threatening diseases common in women.
A physical exam – Get a physical test done every alternate year. These may have to be done more often if you are overweight or obese.
Eye exam – Get an eye check up once every two years even if you don’t wear glasses. If you don’t have vision issues, screening may not be necessary. However, a doctor needs to be consulted if you have any concerns.
Dental check up and cleaning – Dental hygiene is extremely important. There are minor problems that all of us neglect, which might later amplify much more if they are left untreated. So spare an hour or two, at least once a year for a dentist appointment.
Immunisations – You should get one tetanus-diphtheria booster every ten years after the age of 19.
And if you are younger than 26, you should definitely consider the HPV vaccine. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This is a blood test that measures your red and white blood cells, your platelet and haemoglobin count. This test should be taken once every year.
Blood Pressure Test – Women are more likely to have higher blood pressure as compared to me. But it is also important to know that high blood pressure isn’t directly related to gender. However, various factors like pregnancy, pregnancy prevention methods (birth control) could influence it.
Hence it’s important to get this test done at least once a year. The test measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. It also aids in identifying hypertension (high blood pressure) or hypotension (low blood pressure).
Blood Sugar Test – This test measures the amount of glucose in your blood. And is commonly used to find if one has diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Diabetes can affect people of all ages. It also increases the risk of heart diseases by four in women and only about two times in men.
At the same time, women are also at a higher risk of other diabetes related complications like blindness, depression and kidney disease. Women with diabetes have more to manage.
So stay on track by checking your blood sugar levels regularly (annually), eating healthy food and being active so you can be at your healthiest side and enjoy life.
An article here explains in detail how diabetes affects women, the symptoms, risks and more.
ECG Test – A woman is the heart and soul of the family. When you are so important, how can you neglect your own vital organ?
If you feel the slightest symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, fainting or an irregular heartbeat, do not ignore it. In case of a family history of heart disease or obesity, or if you smoke or have diabetes, higher cholesterol or even blood pressure, an annual check up is vital.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) test is a simple medical test. It detects heart problems by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart as it contracts. It’s best to get this test done once annually.
Follow this link to get in depth information on ECG test and its procedures.
Liver Function Test- A liver function test (liver chemistries) helps in determining the health of your liver. This test measures the levels of proteins, liver enzymes and bilirubin in your blood
The liver function test is done to screen for liver conditions like fatty liver, alcohol induced liver damage, Hepatitis B and C.
Annual tests are recommended for this.
Kidney Function Test – Women are more likely to have kidney infections than men because of the way they are built. When it comes to kidney complications, women of child-bearing age face different problems than men.
Women with chronic kidney diseases may have more problems with pregnancy, causing increased risk to both mother and the child. Thus, treating kidney infections right away can help prevent permanent damage to the kidney.
You may need kidney function testing if you have conditions that can harm the kidneys, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. They can help doctors monitor these conditions.
These are simple urine and blood tests that can identify issues with your kidneys. It’s recommended to get this test done once a year.
Follow the article here to know more about the challenges women generally face with regard to kidney diseases.
Bone Mineral Density Test- A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone-thinning disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break, typically in the spine, hip and wrist.
Women are more susceptible to this disease. This is because we women have smaller and lighter bones than men.
The test uses X-rays to measure how many gram bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and forearm.
A bone density scan requires little preparation. You may eat normally and take medications as prescribed by your doctor. The only restriction is that you are not supposed to take any vitamin pills or mineral supplements on the morning of your exam.
This is recommended once in 5 years after the age of 35 years.
This article here explains why osteoporosis affects more women than men, and how to prevent them.
Lipid Profile Test- While younger men are prone to developing high cholesterol, a higher portion of women than men have elevated cholesterol levels after they hit menopause. This is because estrogen levels in young women protect her against high cholesterol.
However, once a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen level drops, and the risk of high cholesterol goes up. Thus it is important to take precaution at the earlier years, and follow regular checkups even before you hit your menopause.
This test basically checks for good and bad cholesterol along with triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. It requires fasting for 12 hours without any water or food.
This should be done any time after the age of 30 years and should be done once in 5 years if previous test results were in normal range. However, high levels require regular screenings, as per doctor’s recommendations.
Click here to know more about Lipid Profile Test
Pelvic examination and a Pap Smear – Your doctor might recommend a pelvic exam if you have symptoms such as unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic pain.
During a pelvic exam, the doctor evaluates your reproductive organs. They checks your vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, rectum and pelvis for any abnormalities, lumps or growths.
A Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is often performed during a pelvic exam. In this test, a swab is inserted in the vagina and cervical cells are collected, which are then sent for laboratory investigations.
It’s recommended to get these tests done for every woman above age 30, and repeat it once in 5 years. You should get this test done regularly, regardless of your sexual activity. This is because HPV (human papilloma virus) can be dormant for many years and then suddenly become active.
All the above tests + some more tests
Thyroid Function Tests- Thyroid function tests are a series of blood tests used to measure how well your thyroid gland is working. They include the T3, T3RU, T4, and TSH.
If your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, you may experience symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue and depression. This condition is called hypothyroidism.
In case it produces too much of its hormones, you may experience weight loss, anxiety or even tremors. This is called hyperthyroidism.
Women are more prone to this than men due to the major hormonal changes we experience during pregnancy, delivery and lactation. This is because pregnancy-related hormones raise the level of thyroid hormones in the blood.
Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism is more likely to develop after menopause. So, remember to take up this test once in 5 years.
Some of the above information has been extracted from HealthLine.
A complete breast examination with a MAMMOGRAM- Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in India despite being easily identifiable.
It is recommended that every woman should regularly undergo breast cancer screening. As the risk of breast cancer increases with age, every woman above the age of 40 years should have an annual mammogram done.
It’s important that you learn to self examine your breasts. A complete breast self-examination should be done every month along with an annual examination by an expert.
Breasts are examined for pain, tenderness, lump, thickening, or any discharge. The position and direction of the nipple should also be noted.
Anything amiss, you should report it to your gynaecologist right away and take immediate action.
Click here to see how you can perform self examination to check your breasts for any irregularities.
Stool Occult Test – This is a lab test used to check stool samples for hidden blood. Occult blood in the stool may indicate colon cancer or polyps in the colon or rectum — though not all cancers or polyps bleed.
If blood is detected through this test, additional tests may be needed to determine the source of the bleeding. This can only detect the presence or absence of blood — it doesn’t indicate potential sources of bleeding.
Screening For STIs – These tests are done to identify infections like syphilis, gonorrhoea, HIV, Hepatitis B and C.
While these tests are not routinely done in India, it’s recommended for those in their 40s, especially for ones having multiple partners.
Uric Acid Test – If you have high levels of uric acid, it can be a sign of disease such as gout. Gout is a form of arthritis where crystals from uric acid form in your joints and cause intense pain.
Gout is genetic and can run in families. So, if you suspect you could be having one, then you might need a uric acid blood test, it measures the uric acid in your blood. This test is also one of the rare ones done in India.
Colonoscopy- A colonoscopy is an exam your doctor uses to look inside your large intestine for possible causes of things like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits.
Colonoscopies are also used to prevent colorectal cancer usually starting at age 50. During a colonoscopy, abnormal growths called polyps can be removed before they transform into cancers. It’s recommended to get this test done once in a decade.
Click here to know more.
Chest X-Ray- If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best health decisions you can make. People aged between 55 and 80 have a 30-pack-per-year smoking history. Or those who smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years should talk to their doctors about being screened for lung cancer. Currently, the only approved screening for lung cancer is a chest x-ray.
All the above tests + some more medical tests
Hearing Tests: Audiogram- An audiogram is a graphical representation of the hearing test of a person measured with a device called audiometer. Audiometry test is useful in prescribing suitable medical treatment or appropriate hearing aids for the patient.
You should get a flu vaccine every year, especially if you are over the age of 65 or have risk factors that make you more susceptible to infection.
Apart from the above tests, here is a list of tests and screenings that an expectant mom must consider:
We have done the ground work for you by listing all that you need to know about medical tests for women. Now it’s your turn to mark what’s important for your age, and fix an appointment with your nearest screening centre.
It’s true that we cannot always buy good health with money, but we surely can invest in such critical screenings and keep our health records updated.
Picture credits: Screenshot from the movie Udta Punjab where Kareena Kapoor plays a doctor
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