Below is a list of few important screening tests every woman should take keeping in mind her age, family history, own health history and her other risk factors.
Breast Cancer Screening
- Clinical Breast Examination: Ideally done by a gynaecologist, it needs to be repeated every 2-3 years for women who are in their 30s and annually for women 40 & above.
- Mammogram: This is low dose x-ray test done to detect & detect small and early stage breast cancers. It should be done an interval of every 1-2 years, starting at the age of 50 but high risk cases (with family history, late pregnancy, smoking etc) can begin testing in their 40s as well.
Colon Cancer Screening
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A flexible sigmoidoscopy can be repeated after every 5 to 10 years. A simple colonoscopy can be done in every 10 years unless a problem is found in previous test. For women, colon cancer screening generally begins at the age of 50.
Cervical Cancer Screening
- Pap Smear: Cervical cancer is majorly caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), which is a sexually transmitted infection. This test detects abnormal cells in the cervix, so that they can be removed even before they turn cancerous. Women of 21-30 years (or earlier if sexually active) should do it in every 3 years. Post 30, they may combine it with HPV test, every 5 years.
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Screening
- All sexually active women must get themselves and their partners checked for HIV and other STDs before getting into sexual activity. Once a year, they must also get a pelvic exam done by a gynaecologist.
- Lipid Profile: Women should get a complete lipid profile (LDL, HDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, VLDL) done at least once in 5 years. They should begin early, if they smoke, have high blood pressure, are obese, diabetes or a family history of any heart disease.
Bone Density Check
Post menopause, women begin to lose bone mass. Due to loss of calcium, their bones become week and prone to fracture.
- BMD: Bone Mineral Densitometry (DXA scan) is an x-ray done to measures bone strength and detects osteoporosis (porous bones) before fractures begins to occur. This should be done at least once a year beginning at age 58 and earlier depending on other risk factors for osteoporosis.
Type 2 Diabetes Screening
- Fasting Blood Sugar: A blood sugar testing after 10-12 hours of fasting is advised at least once in 2 years after 30 years of age. Women falling in high risk category (obese, sedentary or with family history of diabetes) should do it once a year after 40.
- HbA1C: Every 3 years for non-diabetic, otherwise healthy females who carry low risk factors for diabetes.
Screening for High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure should be checked every 2 years starting at the age of 25. Above 40, it’s recommended to check blood pressure more often.