I wanted to share this with my blog readers. I think it is important. Too many times people are diagnosed with one thing or another and it could have been caught so much earlier. As women, we tend to take of everyone around us and forget about ourselves until it's possibly to late to address it. Do your preventative check ups. I have tried to get much better at this the last few years. After 50 they hound you for all kinds of stuff. Ask your doctor about some of the tests - for example - the colonoscopy - there are alternatives to - the nasty drink, poop your brains out - procedure. You never know until you ask. If you have family history, it is especially important to make sure you take of some these.
10 annual health exams that women should not neglect
Published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal 4/30/23 Section E "Live Well"
By Judy Koutsky Parade
April 28, 2023 - 9:32 am
We know, we know: We should go to the doctor more regularly to make sure everything is in order, but finding the time isn’t always easy.
However, it could save your life. Prevention, or catching something early, is the best way to stop many diseases and conditions from becoming serious.
We’ve compiled a checklist of annual physical exams that many women may not have even realized they need.
Every woman should have an annual mole check by a board-certified dermatologist. “I can’t impress upon you how important this is. I have found malignant melanomas in teenagers,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of “Skin Rules.” She explains that the exam should be done with magnifiers and should be very thorough, checking all parts of the skin, including the toes, the scalp and behind the ears. “In our office, we take photographs and make a map of the patients’ moles. Malignant melanoma is such a serious problem. A simple biopsy can save a life.” You should do monthly mole self-checks at home, but make a mole check with your doctor part of your annual physical exam checklist.
STDs and HIV testing
All sexually active females under age 25 should get annual screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea infections, says Dr. Antonio Pizarro, a gynecologist in private practice in Shreveport, Louisiana. “This can be done with a simple urine test and does not require a pelvic exam. These infections can lead to chronic pain, infertility and death if not recognized.” Additionally, HIV blood testing should be routine for women ages 13 to 64. “Between 40,000 and 50,000 new HIV infections occur annually. As many as 1 in 5 women with HIV don’t know their status,” Pizarro adds. He suggests that HIV testing be done as early as possible in adulthood, then make this part of your annual physical exam checklist depending on risk factors.
There is some controversy about the timing of mammogram screening, but for women over 40 it’s likely you should add this to your annual physical exam checklist. “Breast cancer is the No. 2 cause of cancer death among women. The American College of OB-GYN recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40. A clinical examination should be done every one to three years for women under 40, and annually after 40. Women should practice routine breast self-exam and awareness starting in their 20s,” Pizarro says.
This is done to check for cervical cancer and precancer (dysplasia). Pap testing should start at age 21 and should be coupled with DNA testing for HPV, the cancer virus, Pizarro says. Most women will not need this annually, but they should keep it on their radar throughout adulthood. “After normal testing, future testing can be every three years or less often, depending on risk factors,” he adds.
Vitamin D screening
“I think the most underrated screening test is regarding a woman’s Vitamin D 25 level,” says Dr. Eugene Ahn, hematologist/oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center. “This is a critical vitamin that is difficult to get sufficient quantities of through diet alone. In my experience, I have seen that roughly 3 out of 4 patients are Vitamin D deficient.” Ahn notes that Vitamin D is a critical vitamin for bone and immune system health. “A lot of epidemiological data shows significant correlations between low vitamin D levels and a higher cancer risk.”
Every woman should have a dental checkup once a year consisting of bite-wing X-rays, screening for oral cancer and checking for gum disease, says Dr. Kyle Stanley, a dental surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. It is also recommended to get a full set of X-rays every three to five years. “We also suggest getting two professional teeth cleanings per year to maintain optimal oral health,” Stanley says.
The average woman, without any symptoms, should begin getting regular colonoscopies between the ages of 45 and 50, but women who have a family history of certain cancers or of polyp growth should consult their doctors about when a colonoscopy might be right for them, says Dr. John Marks, the chief of colorectal surgery for the Main Line Health System. “Signs such as bleeding or change in bowel habits should be evaluated by a doctor for screening. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis among women, and yet it’s an entirely preventable cancer with effective screening.”
“Heart attacks are the No. 1 killer of women,” says Dr. Jennifer Burns, a holistic family practitioner in Phoenix. She suggests getting an EKG at 30, to check the heart and establish a baseline.
CBC blood count
Many women are anemic and don’t realize it; a CBC complete blood count should be done annually, says Dr. Michele C. Reed, a family medicine physician based in New York. If you’re feeling tired or have heavy periods, it could be because of anemia, so add this to your annual physical exam checklist.
Hormone level screening
A blood test can measure estrogen, testosterone and progesterone to see if there are imbalances, says Dr. Gino Tutera, an OB-GYN based in Scottsdale, Arizona. “By age 40, most women are totally depleted of normal levels of estrogen and have lost nearly all their progesterone and more than half of their testosterone. If left unchecked, hormonal imbalances can lead to premature aging and heart disease.” Tutera notes that having this test and identifying any imbalances can help avoid many common health issues such as thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, depression and breast cancer.