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Taking Time for You: Health Screening Checklist for Every Woman

Taking Time for You: Health Screening Checklist for Every Woman

When it comes to their families’ health, women rule the roost, making nearly 80 percent of all healthcare decisions. Women also tend to be the primary caregiver when a family member becomes ill. In fact, women devote so much time to everyone else, they often overlook their own needs.

There’s no question spare time is hard to come by when you’re juggling a career, family, and home. But with so many demands placed on you every day, you owe it to yourself to take care of your own health too.

If you’re wondering where to begin, the following health screenings are a great start for women of all ages!

Pap smears and pelvic exams. Beginning at age 21, or earlier if you are sexually active, women need to have a pelvic exam and Pap smear every two years to check for abnormalities in the reproductive system. Barring any problems, women age 30 and older need a Pap smear every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row. Your doctor can also screen for sexually transmitted infections.

Mammograms and breast exams. Starting at age 20, women should have a clinical breast exam by a doctor at least every three years until age 40, when this should be done annually. Women should also perform a monthly breast self-exam. If you’re unsure how, ask your doctor. Then, beginning at age 40, a woman should have a mammogram – or digital X-ray of the breast – every two years, or more frequently if you’re at risk for breast cancer.

Blood pressure screenings. Most people with high blood pressure don’t even know it. Starting at age 18, every woman needs to have her blood pressure checked at least every two years. Ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

Cholesterol checks. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. To assess their personal risk, women should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at about age 20. Some community health fairs offer quick cholesterol screenings, involving a simple finger-prick. If you get a high reading, you will be referred to your doctor for more complete testing. The ideal level is below 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) for total cholesterol. Silver Cross Hospital offers two heart screenings – the Baseline Cardiac Assessment, which measures your total cholesterol including HDL and LDL levels, your blood glucose level, triglyceride level, blood pressure, body fat and heart rhythm with a 12-lead EKG.  The Calcium Score exam is a quick and painless test which uses high-speed CT scanning to measure calcium deposits in the coronary arteries.  Calcium scoring is ideal for men over age 45 and females over age 55 who smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of premature coronary artery disease. Both tests can be scheduled by calling (815) 300-7076.

Blood glucose tests. Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, with another seven million undiagnosed. That’s why knowing your blood glucose level is key.  Women should get a blood glucose test every three years starting at about age 45 to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes – earlier if you have high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes or if you’re overweight. While the range of normal test results may vary, a test result of 100 mg/dL or higher generally indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes. The Baseline Cardiac Assessment for $40 will check your blood glucose level plus so much more.

Colon cancer screening. Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. Colon cancer screening tests for women generally start at age 50.  Fecal Occult Blood Tests are a kit that is done in the comforts of your own home and are offered by Silver Cross Hospital for free. The more traditional tests are flexible sigmoidoscopy, a procedure in which a lighted tube and camera are inserted through the anus to look at the lower part of the colon, and a colonoscopy, which involves a longer tube to examine the entire colon. Unless a problem is found, a flexible sigmoidoscopy needs to be repeated every five to 10 years and a colonoscopy every 10 years. Women with a greater risk of colon cancer may need earlier or more frequent cancer screening tests.

Bone density screen. Women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test beginning at age 65. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as having a slender frame or a fractured bone, should be screened earlier. The frequency of this health screening varies based on bone density and risk factors.

Skin examination. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States today. Women should examine their skin every month starting at age 18, and by the time they’re 20, a doctor or dermatologist should conduct the examination during a routine check-up. Women should carefully inspect their skin, looking for any new moles or changes to existing moles to spot the early signs of skin cancer.  Silver Cross Hospital partners with dermatologist Dr. Frank Tobin yearly to offer free skin cancer screenings during the month of May, National Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Regular health screenings are a must for any woman no matter what your age. And with so many people depending on you to be your best, you owe it to them – and most importantly, to you – to stay healthy and keep on top of potential health issues before they become a problem. Visit today to schedule your screening.

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