Monday, November 16th, 2009

Health Checkups Every Woman Should Undergo

healthy-woman-300x443Women are meticulous when it comes to their spouse’s, children and family members’ health. But, this careful approach goes for a toss when their health issues are concerned. Needless, to say this approach does them no good. Prevention is better than cure, and this holds true for our health too. Regular health checkups are essential to keep the human body well oiled. However, the dilemma is that most of the times, we do not know which health checkups need to be done and when? We have put together important health exams that every woman should undergo.

1. Pelvic process. Relax—it’s just an exam! The voice echoes in the bare clinic while you are lying on the couch with your feet spread apart bound in stirrups, and you feel, this is no less than an execution. Pelvic exams are intimidating! The image of a gynaecologist with speculum invokes fear in the minds of most women but the truth is that these exams are indispensable.

The Need.

Dr. Geeta Chaddha, senior consultant gynaecology and obstetrics with Indraprasth Apollo hospitals says, “ A pelvic exam is the first line of checkup. It helps a health professional evaluate the size and position of the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. It is an important part of preventive health care for all adult women.” Notwithstanding, all the media talk a large number of women are unaware, how dangerous sexually transmitted diseases can be. Despite the discomfort and invasive nature of pelvic exams, the fact remains they are useful to help detect certain cancers in their early stages, infections, or other reproductive system problems, like dysmennorhoea—painful cramps during menstruation.

While getting a pelvic exam done insist on following—

  • Disposable gloves
  • Lubricant on the speculum
  • Sterlised instruments
  • A clean couch and clinic

Also the body language of the doctor has a lot to do to assuage the fears of the patient. Hand-holding assurance also works for the patient.

2. Cholesterol check. Get your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. begin it earlier, if you smoke, have diabetes and have history of heart disease in the family. The numbers of your blood pressure are crucial too and so is screening against diabetes. High blood pressure, combined with diabetes and high cholesterol levels jeopardizes your heart health.

The need.

When it comes to health, women do not think beyond the bikini view of their health. In no way, we are trying to undermine the importance of reproductive tract and breast health, but the recent data culled from American Heart Association, reveals that since two decades, every year globally more women die of cardiovascular diseases than all other causes of death combined. Sedentary living, stressful professional life, smoking and oral contraceptive pills greatly amplify our risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease—CAD. The added risk of diabetes nullifies the protective-estrogen benefit.

3. Bone of the matter. Osteoporosis is a silent disease. There may be no symptom until the first fracture. Backaches may give cues to osteoporosis but they are largely ignored. The good news is that osteoporosis is a treatable condition and may need medications and lifestyle changes. But the first step remains detection of the disease. Normal X-rays cannot detect osteoporosis. Diagnosis and medication entails measuring the patient’s bone mass – the most reliable method being the dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry, or DEXA scan. “Women post-menopause should get their bone density test done and once they approach sixty, this test is a must to evaluate the status of their bones”, advises Dr. Mithal.

The need.

Osteoporosis may be India’s number one disease claims a recent study. Too many Indian women lose mobility because of falls and fractures and at an age, which is 10 to 15 years younger than their global counterparts. Dr. Ambrish Mithal, senior consultant endocrinology at Indraprastha Apollo hospitals, New Delhi and President of Indian Bone Society and Mineral Research says, “Lower vitamin D levels and poorer calcium intake in Indian women is responsible for their reduced bone density, thus making them vulnerable to osteoporosis.”

“Osteoporosis can turn out to be a silent killer. Worldwide data on deaths from osteoporosis indicate at least 20% people suffering from osteoporosis die within one year,” warns he.

4.Cancer alert. Common cancers in women are breast, cervix, lung and colorectal cancers.

Breast cancer. Fifteen minutes once a month one week after you had your periods is all that is required to do your breast exam. Learn the right technique from your gynaecologist. Between, 20 to 40 have a clinical exam done by doctor, every year to evaluate your risk factors for breast cancer. After 40, once every three years get mammograms done.
The Need. The instances of breast cancer is on rise since 1970s. Most of us are unaware that Delhi registers the highest number of breast cancer cases. Delhi Cancer Registry reports that approximately 84,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

Cancer of the cervix– The Pap smear (scraping of a sample tissue from cervix) is the best screening test for cervical cancer. While the earlier age norm was 35 years, but nowadays, any sexually active woman above the age of 18 can get a Pap smear done if the following symptoms appear:

  • A sudden or excessive onset of discharge, with itching or odour
  • Spotting/ bleeding during intercourse, or vaginal infections
  • Or if there is a family history of cancer of the cervix

The need.

This second most common cancer that affects women betrays no symptoms until it is too late. India is home to one-fourth of the world cervical cases. The link between Human Papilloma Virus and cervical cancer is well established. HPV virus prefers to grow in the glans penis—sensitive tip of the penis. Scrupulous washing and cleaning of genitals by men can keep these viruses at bay.

Colorectal cancer. Begin regular screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you. How often you need to be tested will depend on which test you have.

5. Hypothyroidism. Dr. Meera Naik, consultant gynaecology and obstetrics with Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon says, “You are waging a losing battle with weight, may be hypothyroidism—low levels of thyroid is to blame.” Nearly 10 percent of women in the world are hypothyroid, meaning they have low levels of thyroid levels—and many of them do not know it. Get yourself checked for thyroid levels every five years, starting at age of 35.

The need

Hypothyroidism increases chances of developing heart disease.
“These periodic checkups—important throughout a woman’s life—have to be made because you may be harbouring the disease without realizing and these screenings will prevent you from a lot of health risks”, concludes Dr. Meera Naik.

Doc Speaks

Dr. Geeta Chaddha, senior consultant gynaecology and obstetrics, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals says—

  1. Get your BMI done to know your weight score card.
    Weight in kilograms = Your height in meter X Your height in meter
  2. If you are feeling depressed for more than a fortnight schedule an appointment with your doctor.
  3. Remember these important health tests—blood pressure checkup, blood work to know your lipid profile, thyroid level, sugar level, pelvic and breast exam.
  4. Drink milk. Grown up women too need calcium.
  5. Eat healthy, exercise, stay mentally active and indulge in hobbies.
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Category: Health Concerns
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