Good health is essential for everyday activities and quality living. A woman’s unique biological design and gender-related issues can increase vulnerability to certain health issues and disease. These issues can have a significant impact on health. So looking after your health, and having regular Women’s Health checks are very important, even when you feel fit and healthy.
Why is a Women’s Health Check important?
A Women’s Health Check is done by your GP using screening and assessment tools to help you stay healthy by:
- Picking up warning signs of health problems early
- Preventing and detecting more serious disease, such as heart disease or diabetes
- Preventing and detecting diseases specific to women, such as breast and cervical cancer
What health areas should I have checked?
For women, their unique biological design and vulnerability to health issues requires regular checks of breast, cervical screening, bowel and bone health by a GP. If your family has a medical history of certain diseases, it’s important to tell your GP, and discuss these at a Women’s Health Check. A Women’s Health Check could include:
1. A General Health Check
A General Health Check is done by your GP. The recommendation is to have a general health check every year. This could include:
- Testing your blood pressure
- A blood test to check cholesterol and blood glucose levels
- A blood test to check iron levels, if patient symptoms indicate
- A skin examination, if indicated
2.Breast Screening (Mammogram)
Breast screening detects disease in the breasts of healthy women, with no symptoms of disease.
Through regular breast screening most breast cancers, including some too small to be felt through self-examination, can be detected in the early stages.
- Is for healthy women, primarily aged 50 to 74 years
- Is for women aged 40 years, with a strong family history of breast cancer
- Is done by having a mammogram (breast X-ray) at a Breast Screen SA clinic
- Is recommended every 2 years
Since December 2017, Cervical Screening has replaced the Pap smear testing in Australia.
The new Cervical Screening is less frequent, more accurate and effective than the Pap test in detecting cervical changes that lead to cervical cancer. The new Cervical Screening:
- Is for women aged 25 to 74 years, who have been or are sexually active and have a cervix
- Is for women 25 years or below, when indicated and is requested by your GP
- Is done every five years, if your results are normal instead of every two
4.Bone Density Screening
Osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) can effect middle-aged women (and sometimes men). In women, the female hormone oestrogen is responsible for maintaining bone strength. Women’s oestrogen levels begin to decrease at about age 50 years and during early menopause. This can increase the risk of a bone fracture.
Women can reduce their risk of osteoporosis by making some life-style changes. For example, 30-40 minutes of regular, daily weight-bearing exercise, maintaining an adequate level of calcium in your diet and vitamin D, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption and stop smoking.
Bone Density Scanning:
- Is for women aged 70 years, or over
- Is recommended every two years
- Is for those who have a family medical history of Osteoporosis and are concerned about their bone health
The risk of bowel cancer (colon or rectal cancer) in Women (and Men) rises significantly at age 50 and is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.
Up to 90% of bowel cancer, when detected early, is easier and more successfully treated and cured. So doing a bowel cancer screening using a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) can save your life.
Women can lower their risk of bowel cancer by doing and FOBT every two years from age 50. Other ways to lower your risk of bowel cancer is to remain physically active, maintain a healthy diet, lifestyle and body weight, limit red or processed meat and avoid charring meat, limit alcohol and stop smoking.
Women with a family history of bowel cancer should tell their GP.
Bowel Screening with a FOBT:
- Is for women (and men) aged 50 to 74 years, especially those with a family history of bowel cancer
- Is recommended every 2 years
- Looks for early signs of bowel cancer, identifying people who require further testing
Other health concerns, unique and common for women include issues with menstruation, anaemia (low iron level), contraception, sexual health, prolapse or urinary incontinence and menopause.
Women have many areas of health to manage. If you are concerned about any women’s health issue or have other health concerns, please contact your local Pro Health Care to schedule an appointment with your preferred GP.
Pro Medical SA, Kylie Priebbenow, Registered Nurse