The top 5 preventative screenings all women should undergo

– Tanya Motlafe (Director, Cornerstone Healthcare Consulting Services)

Prevention is better than cure is probably one of the best-known phrases in the English language and with recent advances in healthcare confirming the importance of prevention, it’s no wonder it’s been around for so long – it’s safe to say preventative screenings are vital in the detection and successful treatment of many illnesses.

Cornerstone Healthcare Consulting Services always puts the health and wellbeing of our clients first and with August commemorating women across the globe, what better way to celebrate women than highlighting the top preventative screening to keep them even stronger and healthier. If you are a woman, having these tests done regularly will help you to live a healthier life while aiding in the early diagnoses of lifestyle and other diseases.

Blood pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is the leading cause of a variety of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart failure and aneurysm. Hypertension during pregnancy can lead to a variety of additional complications including superimposed preeclampsia and gestational hypertension which can endanger you and your baby’s life.

Risk factors that can increase your chances of developing hypertension include obesity, smoking, too much sodium in your diet, alcohol abuse as well as genetic predispositions. Having your blood pressure measured regularly will allow you to spot any problems ahead of time and help you to avoid long-term damage. A blood pressure test is quick and painless and can be performed by a nurse, doctor, pharmacist or paramedic. If you do develop high blood pressure, it can easily be treated and managed using prescribed medication or by making a few lifestyle changes. Source: Mayo Clinic 

Blood glucose

For a long time, Diabetes has been considered one of the top five causes of natural death in South Africa, however in a recent article on Health24, diabetes is shown as the number one leading cause of death in the Western Cape, topping TB and HIV. These alarming statistics provide more than enough reason to make measuring and managing your blood glucose levels one of your top priorities.

Obesity, a high sugar diet, lack of exercise, alcohol abuse and genetic factors can increase your chances of developing diabetes but knowing your blood glucose level will help you to identify and possibly avoid diabetes by making the necessary lifestyle changes.  The test can be performed at most pharmacies and clinics and usually involves a finger prick to extract a drop of blood which is then placed on a test strip and inserted into an electronic device for measurement.

Cholesterol test

High cholesterol levels can cause a variety of health issues including heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis (hardening of the veins.) There is a misconception that high cholesterol mostly affects men and that it is very rare among women, however this is false. High cholesterol can affect women equally and have the same devastating effects.

A cholesterol test can be done with a quick finger prick test, however for comprehensive results, a fasting lipogram may be necessary. This is usually conducted by a trained medical practitioner at a pathologist practice via referral from your general practitioner. If your cholesterol levels are high, it can be managed though medication or lifestyle changes such as an increase in exercise and a decrease in fatty and processed foods.

Pap smears and HPV vaccines

In a national study by the National Health Laboratory Service published in 2016 , it states that cervical cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among woman in South Africa with nearly 10 000 new diagnoses each year. Though these statistics are shocking, the good news is that this number has been dropping substantially due to screenings that help prevent cervical cancer. This includes pap smears and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines.

A pap smear is mainly used to screen for cervical cancer and has shown to very effective in spotting any irregularities soon enough for treatment to have maximum impact. Depending on your doctor’s advice, a pap smear is usually every second or third year and is often combined with an HPV test.

HPV is group of more than 100 viruses that are extremely common worldwide. It is mostly spread by sexual contact and certain viruses have been identified as one of the largest causes of cervical cancer. An HPV vaccine can provide substantial to total protection from the virus and is highly recommended to all women, especially those who are sexually active. Remember to consult your doctor first before getting the vaccine.

Mammogram

With 1 in every 26 South African women likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, this illness is the most common cancer among females according to CANSA

You can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by keeping fit and healthy, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol and by going for regular mammograms. Mammograms are an effective way of identifying any irregularities in breast tissue that may be associated with breast cancer.

A mammogram is a relatively quick procedure, rarely taking more than 20 – 30 minutes with minimal discomfort. It is normally done at a radiology practice through referral from your general practitioner or gynaecologist. Most medical professionals recommend that females over the age of 40 should undergo a mammogram at least once a year depending on your results and advice from your doctor.

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