Breast Cancer Awareness: What Are The Annual Tests Every Woman Should You Have?

Too often women put themselves, and their health, last on their to do list. In honor of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share the top eight exams a woman should be sure to have scheduled on her calendar.

1.    Mammograms are recommended for women between the ages of 40-50. If you know you are at an increased risk for breast cancer due to genetics, your doctor may recommend getting tested earlier and, possibly, more frequently.

2.    Pap smear tests screen for abnormalities and lower the risk of developing cancer if the test is done regularly, because abnormalities can be caught early. It tests for several health conditions, including HPV and cervical cancer. The test should be performed every three to five years and is recommended for women between the ages of 21-65.

3.    Pelvic exams are performed to make certain that a woman’s reproductive system is healthy. During a pelvic exam, the doctor checks the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries, and uterus. Some doctors perform a pelvic exam during a routine pap smear. You can request a pelvic exam at any time if you notice changes in menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal pain or cramping, difficulty emptying your bladder, frequent urination, chronic constipation, etc. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and adenomyosis can be diagnosed through a pelvic exam. If you are diagnosed with uterine fibroids or adenomyosis, it’s important to see an Interventional Radiologist who can conduct further tests like an ultrasound or MRI to locate and treat the condition.

4.    A colonoscopy is a test performed so that the doctor can investigate the colon for polyps or cancer. Colon cancer tests may not be attractive, but the number of people affected by colon cancer has increased significantly. The doctor can remove polyps or other tissue for examination during the procedure. It is recommended screening start at the age of 50.

5.    Doctors recommend a Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults 35-70 years of age. For individuals who have an increased BMI (body mass index), diabetes blood tests are recommended every three years. There are two tests used: a fasting plasma glucose test and an oral glucose tolerance test.

6.    Physical exams are an important yearly test. Use this appointment to update your medical records, ask your doctor questions, change medications, request a mental health exam or treatment, schedule important tests, and update your vaccinations.

7.    Osteoporosis screening helps to estimate the density of your bones and the likelihood of breaking a bone. These are typically recommended for the hip and spine. Women should get a bone density test starting at age 65, when bones typically become brittle. The x-ray test can take between 10-30 minutes using your wrist or heel.

8.    Skin exams, even if you are not out in the sun much or long, are important to track the changes in moles and prevent skin cancer like melanoma. When you’re getting in or out of the shower, take time to check your body with a standing or hand mirror for new moles. It’s important to check yourself monthly; especially in spots you may not see daily, like your back or behind your neck.

Keeping up to date with which tests you have done and when is in your hands. Make sure you take the initiative to have them completed. And, if something is not right, even when it is not time for a scheduled exam, speak up. Talk to your doctor and work to find a solution and/or treatment that is right for you.

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