Every year, millions of women have an annual checkup. Getting the standard tests each year, the mammogram, the Pap smear, the manual breast check, and the pelvic exam, they don’t always know some tests that every woman should have and why. These 5 tests could save your life.
The Dexa Scan, or bone mineral density test, is used to tell how strong your bones are. As women get older, the calcium depletes from their bones, making them less dense, or easier to break. Women can lose up to 30% of the density in their bones after menopause. Generally, this test is given after age 65, but if you weigh less than 127 lbs at menopause, have a family history of menopause, or a history of non traumatic fractures, then it is recommended at the age of menopause.
This simple blood test will measure the total amount of cholesterol, your high density lipids (HDL), your low density lipids (LDL) and total triglycerides. This is import to test for your heart health. The HDL is the good cholesterol and should be over 40mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter), the LDL, or bad cholesterol should be below 30mg/dl and total triglycerides should be below 200mg/dl. Diet and exercise are will help reduce these numbers, but if they are significantly out of line, medications may be ordered.
Colonoscopy & Sigmoidoscopy
These tests are used to detect problems with the colon and look for potential cancer growths called polyps. Going from the rectum to the duodenum (the start of the colon at the bottom of your stomach), the colonoscopy views the whole colon. The colonoscopy does require conscious sedation, meaning you will be given medication that will make you sleepy, but will still be able respond to voice commands. You have to follow a special diet and take colon cleansing medications/substances in the 12-16 hours before the procedure. It is done on an outpatient basis, whether at the doctor’s office or at the same day surgical center. There is a recovery period afterwards due to the sedating medication that is given.
The sigmoidoscopy is a similar procedure but less invasive overall. Only visualizing the last two feet of colon, there is no sedation required. Preparation for the test is done that morning and consists of 2-3 enemas to clean the sigmoid colon out. This is an inexpensive alternative to a colonoscopy that can give an idea of the colon health. Biopsy can be taken in both procedures, and if something is found suspicious and it is warranted, a colonoscopy can be preformed. There is no recovery time for the sigmoidoscopy and can be performed in almost any doctor’s office.
Okay, this isn’t really a test, but for those women who have a lot of sun exposure, having your skin checked annually for unusual moles or skin discolorations is imperative. This simple examination can be the earliest detection of possible skin cancer. We can’t always see what is abnormal, but a family physician or dermatologist can. The earlier that the possibility that skin cancer is developing is the earlier that treatments can begin. This is one examination that should not be overlooked after the age of 30.
These simple tests can be the first line of defense against a whole host of potential problems. Early detection of many diseases and conditions allows you to get treatments earlier, which could mean a longer, healthier life. So the next time you go to your annual physical, don’t forget these 5 tests that every woman should have.