Most women will probably not have problems with their health, but it’s still important to undergo routine checkups to make sure that you’re healthy. Reproductive systems are complex, and although some health checks are easy and simple enough to be done on your own, occasional visits to the doctor are necessary for others. Checkups will ensure that you’re healthy, and detect earlier anything that may be wrong. Go through the list below for recommended tests and checks.
Self Breast Exam
Constantly monitoring the health and condition of breasts is important for adult women, especially that breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. Regular checkups are crucial in early detection and immediate treatment, and you can perform self-check breast exams on yourself every month, which can be done at a preferred routine time. There are three steps you need to do for this test:
- While standing, use your fingers to feel for any lumps, hardness, or other changes around the breasts.
- Face a mirror and look at the breast for any changes such as swelling, blemishes, color, or changes to the nipple.
- While laying down, raise your shoulders with a pillow and lift each arm above your head. Check for lumps, hard areas, or discharge from the nipples.
Any changes can be spotted faster and any serious illness can be diagnosed earlier with the help of monthly self-check breast exams. If any lumps or irregularities are found, consult a healthcare provider immediately to undergo a mammogram exam.
What Is A Pap Test
Pap smear (pap test) is administered by a doctor or nurse to check for any signs of infections, cervical cancer, or abnormal cells in the cervix.
Why Is It Important
- Can detect abnormal cells and infections.
- Treating these cells early to stop cervical cancer from developing.
- Prevents cervical cancer.
Who Should Get A Pap Test
- Women between age 21–69 who are sexually active for the last three years; including oral, vaginal, anal sex, kissing and any other form of sexual activity.
- Women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to take a pap test.
- Women who do not have a cervix because of hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) or an abnormal pap result history do not need to take the test.
How Is The Test Done
The entire procedure of a pap test is quick and simple. During the test, you will be asked to lie on a bed, naked from the waist down to your legs. The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina, a metal instrument used to slightly open your vagina and make your cervix visible.
Using a small brush or stick, the doctor will swab small samples of cells from your cervix to be tested. It’s painless, but may be uncomfortable—try to relax! The collected cells are then placed on a glass slide and will be sent to the laboratory for testing.
It’s as simple as that!
How Often Should A Pap Test Be Taken
- Get a pap test every three years if you are between 21 and 29 years old.
- Get a pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) test together every five years or a pap test only every three years if you are between 30 and 64 years old.
- Ask your doctor if you can stop getting pap tests if you are 65 years old or older.
How To Prepare For A Pap Test
Two days before getting the test, avoid having sex and using vaginal care products such as creams, medicines, and douches.
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common STI (sexually transmitted infection) that attacks the skin of the cervix, anus, and lining of the mouth and throat.
There are over 100 kinds of HPV viruses, and more than 40 are spread by sexual contact.
How Do You Get HPV
HPV can be spread even if there are no symptoms; which means that you can get HPV from someone who looks totally fine—no signs or symptoms.
HPV is spread through:
- Skin contact (kissing, genital touching, sharing sex toys).
- Vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Childbirth from a woman to her baby.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of HPV
Some types of HPV cause genital warts, but will not develop to cancer. Genital warts are itchy and annoying flesh-colored bumps around the genital areas, but are not painful.
There are types of HPV that can take many years for cancer to develop, but will not show any symptoms. This is why regular checkups and pap smear tests are necessary for women after age 21 to prevent cervical cancer and get right treatment immediately for any odd findings.
When To Get HPV Vaccine
It’s best to get the HPV vaccine before having any type of sexual contact with anyone.
- Girls should get three doses of the HPV vaccine by 11 or 12 years old.
- Girls and women 13 through 26 years old can get vaccinated if they did not get any or all three doses when they were younger.
- The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
Pros And Cons
- An important precaution in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts.
- Protects against HPV viruses, which causes 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts.
- Gives at least ten-year protection.
- Safe and effective.
- Has few side effects (Mild pain or swelling at the injection site).
- Ineffective for patients who are already infected with HPV.
- Three doses are needed over a six month period to be fully protected.
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam that is performed to have a closer examination for any lumps or changes in breast tissue that cannot be found through a self-check or clinical breast exam. Women who have breast symptoms such as a lump, change in the shape or size of the breast, nipple discharge or pain, and even women who have no breast complaints go through a mammogram.
Mammograms are ideally taken every year when you are in your 40s. When you have reached the ages between 50 to 74, have it every other year.
Having a mammogram every one to three years is an important precaution to prevent breast cancer, especially if it’s in your family history. If that’s the case, have a mammogram every year.