Annual health check-ups can help in early detection of common health problems in women. What does a typical check-up package include, and how can you make the most of it?
Regular health exams can help detect problems before they start causing harm. By finding problems early, you have better chances of successful treatment. In this article, we explore what to expect during an annual health check-up and the tests you should include to make it a complete package.
Dr. Jhansi KP, a gynaecologist at NIMS Hospital, Trivandrum, says that regular annual health check-ups are important to detect common health problems in women, especially for those above 35 years of age. “A typical health check-up package for women will include a pelvic ultrasound, pap smear, and clinical breast exam along with other routine tests,” says Dr. Jhansi.
A complete check-up includes blood work for general health, including checks for diabetes, cholesterol, thyroid function, heart disease, and major organ functions. Screening for breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers as well as other pelvic disorders also form part of the comprehensive check-up.
“For a patient less than 40 years of age, most of the concerns are usually related to their reproductive health. So that is where we typically focus on. During the preliminary examination, we ask the patient about the regularity of periods, adequacy of bleeding, pain during the periods or intercourse, unusual discharge, or any other complaints,” explains Dr Jhansi.
With the hectic lifestyle of today, infertility is on the rise. Two of the factors that contribute to infertility – endometriosis and PCOS – can be detected during a health check-up. Patient suffering from endometriosis may experience pain during periods or intercourse, and PCOS patient may suffer from irregular periods, obesity, facial hair etc. “Another disease which is on the rise is hypothyroidism, which can also be detected by a check-up. When we find signs of such disorders which can lead to complications later in life, we are able to advise patients to take adequate precautions to maintain their health,” points out Dr. Jhansi.
Health check-up packages are more or less the same across hospitals. For patients above 30 years of age, KIMS Multispecialty Hospital, Trivandrum offers an executive health check which includes blood investigation, lipid profile, kidney function test, urine routine, diet consultation, ECG, chest x-ray, ultrasound of abdomen, and Pap smear. Pelvic examination and ultrasound will reveal ovarian dysfunction, which can manifest as PCOS and a higher tendency to develop diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. There is also a physical consultation and a gynaecological consultation.
“The executive package is the same for both men and women, except for the Pap smear test and gynaecological consultation for women,” explains Anjali Muraleedhar, Asst. Manager, Guest and Patient Relationship, KIMS.Pap smear and mammogram can help detect cervical cancer and breast cancer early. Pap smear will help detect pre-cancerous cells on the cervix. It is a painless procedure whereby cervical cells are scraped out and investigated.
“Post-menopausal women are more susceptible to cancer, so regular health check-ups are definitely advised for women in this age group,” says Dr. Jhansi.
Anjali mentions that the package for women above 60 will also include an ophthalmologist consultation, audiogram and ENT, cardiology, and dental examination as well.
“We usually tell the patients to come for the check-up in the morning before breakfast. No other preparations are necessary unless the doctor specifically mentions otherwise,” says Anjali. Basic screening such as blood pressure and weight checks may be done at the doctor’s office. The normal process is to undergo a standard test as recommended for your age group, and depending on the results, the doctor may order additional tests if required.
After you get the test results, take the initiative to find out what they mean. If you’re worried about anything in particular, discuss the corresponding results with your doctor. Perhaps your close relatives have cancer or diabetes, and you want to ensure that you minimise your risk of developing the diseases. After a health check-up, there’s usually a physician’s consultation as well as a gynaecological consultation. Make sure that you discuss your concerns during the meetings.
The doctor herself may suggest medication or lifestyle changes if the results are not normal. If you have a diet consultation, find out what foods to eat and what to avoid. Check with the doctor about whether you need to gain or lose weight. Discuss your family history and previous medical history and point out areas of concern.
If you feel well and the check-up results are normal, it is likely that you are healthy. “Women must talk to their gynaecologists and find out if they need more exams and screenings depending on their age, medical and family history, diet, activity level, and other lifestyle habits,” clarifies Dr. Jhansi.
An annual health check-up is necessary to ensure that your health is completely within your control. You only need to check once a year for most conditions, unless the doctor specifies otherwise. If you have hypothyroidism or high blood sugar, the doctor may prescribe medication and ask you to perform those specific tests six months later.
Many companies offer annual health packages for women. Take advantage of the facilities offered at your workplace. Even if you are not working, spare one day every year to take ownership of your health and well-being.
*Photo credit: UrbaneWomenMag (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Nisha Salim is a self-employed writer and a social media junkie.
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