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5 check-up procedures that women should routinely undergo

From the age of 18, you should perform regular self-examinations of your breasts; if you notice or feel any changes, consult your doctor immediately. Picture: AP

From the age of 18, you should perform regular self-examinations of your breasts; if you notice or feel any changes, consult your doctor immediately. Picture: AP

Published Jul 27, 2022

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Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as lifestyle diseases, are among the most serious threats to South African health.

They are the result of our lifestyle choices, in combination with genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors.

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The most common are hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It is imperative to have regular or annual check-ups.

According to Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, Head of Operations at Bonitas Medical Fund, the Body Mass Indicator (BMI), which is used to determine if you are a healthy weight, nearly 70% of women in South Africa are overweight or obese.

Checking your blood glucose is crucial because more than 4.6 million South Africans have diabetes, which comes in two basic varieties: Type 1 and Type 2. Diabetes's undetected state is one of its biggest problems.

It's crucial to get tested because this can cause amputation, kidney failure, impotence, blindness, heart attack, and stroke.

When blood pressure remains high over time, it is called hypertension. Due to the fact that roughly 33% of those who have it are unaware of having it, it is frequently referred to as the "silent killer".

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts additional strain on your arteries. Hypertension can also lead to kidney failure, vision issues, and heart disease if it is not managed.

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  • Normal 120/80 to 129/84
  • Upper end of Normal 130/85 to 139/89
  • Mild hypertension 140/90 to 159/99
  • Moderate hypertension 160/100 to 179/109
  • Severe hypertension More than 180/110

Dr Mkhatshwa also advocates specific checks for women.

Early detection increases your chances of survival and may save your life. Image by Artphoto studio from Freepik

A mammogram

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that radiologists use to look for changes in breast tissue. Early detection increases your chances of survival and may save your life.

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From the age of 18, you should perform regular self-examinations of your breasts; if you notice or feel any changes, consult your doctor immediately.

From the age of 40, some doctors recommend getting a mammogram every two years.

Cervical cancer

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The high risk of cervical cancer in South Africa has been linked to the fact that not enough women undergo routine screenings. Screening can detect early cervix changes that can be treated and save your life.

Screening includes Pap test (pap smear), which looks for cell changes in the cervix that may progress to cancer if not treated.

The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) test

This test searches for the virus that causes the majority of cervical cancers. Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a pap smear every two years, and from the age of 30, a pap smear and HPV test can be done every five years.

To protect women from HPV, a vaccine has been developed. It is offered free to girls in grades four through seven (9 to 12 years old) in all government schools.

HPV vaccination may be a cost-effective strategy for lowering the risk of cervical cancer in South African women.

Bone density

Your bones become thinner and weaker as you get older. This can lead to osteoporosis over time.

A bone density test called a DEXA scan is recommended if you are 65 or older; the frequency of this screening varies depending on your bone density and other risk factors.

Colorectal cancer screening

These tests look for cancer in the colon or rectum by checking for tissue growths, called polyps. When you reach the age of 45, you should consider getting tested.

A colonoscopy, in which the doctor examines your entire colon, should be performed every 3-10 years, depending on what is discovered during your exam.

Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) should happen annually. The FIT is also a screening test for colon cancer which tests for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer.

Skin checks

Skin cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of skin cells. Skin cancer is classified into three types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Examine your skin at least once a month, and if you are prone to developing a lot of moles, see a dermatologist to have the mole mapped.' Skin cancers are almost always curable if detected early and treated.

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