A go-to health screenings checklist every woman needs for the New Year

Updated on: 27 December 2021, 17:07 pm IST
Women can go through multiple health troubles. Here’s a preventive care health checklist to catch the problems in time.
Dr Manju Gupta
Stay on a healthier note by getting health checkups done in a timely way. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Year 2021 is nearing the end and we’re here to make 2022 a year of better health for you. To start with, women in different age groups are inordinately impacted by various health issues, including metabolic disorders, cardiac disease, gender-specific cancers, mood disorders and hypertension. Though there are age-specific healthcare recommendations, women of all ages should have an annual preventive healthcare visit, or a well-woman exam.

Have you ever wondered what an age-specific well-woman exam entails? Following is an easy-to-follow health screenings checklist you need at every stage of adulthood.

Health screenings you need in your 20s and 30s:

 

  • Cervical cancer and STI screening

Cervical cancer is the most common kind of cancer that Indian women are diagnosed with and it is second to breast cancer all over the world. With the incidence of cervical cancer on the rise, women have to get more involved in combating this silent killer. The cervical cancer screening with Pap smear should begin at the age of 21.

Women should also be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) based on individual risk factors and age recommendations. Women are particularly susceptible to the ill-effects of STDs such as infertility, heart diseases, brain damage and increased risk of certain kinds of cancers. Women are also silent carriers for certain infections such as Chlamydia and might not know they are infected till their condition is very severe. Screening for STDs such as Herpes, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C, HPV and HIV/AIDS is critical given the times we live in.

  • Breast cancer screening

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of all cancers affecting women and 7 percent of all cancer deaths. Despite all the awareness surrounding this disease, a lot of women do not get themselves screened for it. A self breast exam is a good starting point and every woman over the age of 25 must regularly self-examine. There is, however, a chance that self-exams may miss smaller lumps. A mammogram is the best way to screen for breast cancer.

  • Cardiovascular risk assessment

Blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol and diabetic screenings are personalized according to lifestyle, Body Mass Index, family history and chronic use of medications like steroids or contraception. Patients with a history of gestational diabetes are considered more at risk for cardiovascular health issues.

  • Immunization

You should get one tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years, starting sometime after the age of 19. If you are younger than 26, you should consider the HPV vaccine. If you have never had chickenpox, you should get the varicella vaccine.

Health screenings you need in your 40s and 60s

The tests you began in your 20s will still be used in your 40s, though the timing of the exams will change. You will also need several new tests starting in your 40s.

  • Mammogram

All women should have a mammography to screen for breast cancer. Women younger than age 50 should work with their doctors to determine how often to have a mammography.

  • Breast Exam

Starting in your 40s, you need to visit your healthcare provider who can perform yearly breast exams. They will visually and manually check your breasts for differences in size or shape, rashes and dimpling, and lumps. One should be aware of how one’s breasts look and feel and report any changes to your doctor.

  • Colon cancer screening

The recommended age for colon cancer screening is 45. If there are any abnormal findings, the screening could be repeated every three to five years. In case of a normal colonoscopy, it’s repeated every 10 years.

If there is a family history of colon cancer in first-degree relatives, screening starts at an earlier age or is completed more frequently after clinical risk assessment.

  • Ovarian cancer screening

It’s important to be aware of this disease. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Ovarian cancer is mostly common among women post-menopause. These cancers arise due to changes in DNA cells that lead to the development of cancer. To prevent the risk of ovarian cancer, it is best to undergo a check up before one reaches the menopause age. Routine ultrasound, tumour markers like CA1.25, CEA etc can easily detect early onset of disease.

  • Diabetes, Obesity, and hypertension screening

A blood sugar test, HbA1C and lipid profile should be done to diagnose diabetes, pre diabetes and allied conditions.

  • Premenopause and perimenopause

Reduce menopause symptoms with the help of some physical activity. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

 

A couple of missed periods when you’re 40 might lead you to think you’re pregnant, but it’s also possible to begin menopause at this age. About 5 percent of women go into early menopause, experiencing symptoms between the ages of 40 and 45. One percent of women go into premature menopause before age 40. Early menopause can occur naturally. Or, it may be triggered by surgery to remove your ovaries, cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, or autoimmune diseases.

6 Signs you’re in early menopause

 

  • Missing more than three periods in a row
  • Heavier or lighter than usual periods
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness

Many women enter the perimenopausal phase in their late 40s. At the perimenopause stage which means ‘around menopause’, your estrogen and progesterone production slows, and you begin to make the transition into menopause. Perimenopause can last for 8 to 10 years. You’ll likely still get a period during this time, but your menstrual cycles will become more erratic.

During your early 50s, you may be either in menopause, or making the final transition into this phase. At this point, your ovaries are no longer releasing eggs or making much estrogen.

The transition to menopause begins and ends at different times for each woman. Factors like your family history and whether you smoke can make the timing earlier or later. Your symptoms should serve as a guide. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood changes are all common at this time of life. If you think you’re in perimenopause or menopause, see your gynecologist or primary care provider. A simple test can tell you for sure based on hormone levels in your blood.


The last word

Women are perfect caretakers but sometimes tend to put the needs of their families and work pressures before their own needs. Most of us tend to go to the doctor only when things begin to feel bad. The end of the year 2021 is a good time to get that motto into our heads!

Dr Manju Gupta

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