October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all the attention in the media and elsewhere is an excellent way of making women and men more educated on this type of cancer. Although important we shouldn’t stop there. Along with Breast Cancer there are many other types of preventable illnesses and diseases that affect women every day.
Breast Cancer screening through mammograms should be done every three years for women over 40 but this isn’t the only screening that can be done for early detection of disease. Following are other important tests and checkups that women should have at some point in their life.
Cervical Cancer – this type of cancer starts with abnormal cells on the cervix. Since early stages of cervical cancer usually don’t cause pain women should have regular pap smear tests and pelvic exams don
starting at age 21.
Skin Cancer – a cancer often not discussed, skin cancer or melanoma can occur at any age. Sun exposure and damage are the leading cause of skin cancer and damage done early in life may not show up until later on. Screening should be done by a Dermatologist. Pay attention to moles or discolorations in the skin and consult a physician if you notice a change in shape or colour.
High Blood Pressure – common in adults between the age of 35 and 60, high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke or kidney failure. Ask your doctor to test your blood pressure each time you’re in the office. High blood pressure can be treated with diet, exercise and medication if needed.
Type 2 Diabetes – occurs in adults suffering from obesity or leading an unhealthy lifestyle. This type of diabetes happens because the body develops a resistance to insulin. There are many other risks involved with diabetes which can lead to loss of limps, blindness or even death. You should start testing for type 2 diabetes if you are at risk at age 45.
Cholesterol – is the waxy fat that can be found in cell membranes. Cholesterol is found in everyone but when the levels are high in the blood there is a risk of coronary heart disease. You’re doctor can check your cholesterol levels and this should be done every four years or more if there is a family history of heart disease. Heart disease affects more and more women but is still thought to be more common in men. This is a misconception.
Osteoporosis – affects a large number of women by weakening their bones, making them more brittle and prone to breakage. Osteoporosis usually occurs after menopause so women should have bone density tests around this time.
Glaucoma – fogs the vision and can cause blindness when the optic nerve is damaged completely. Women should be tested by their eye doctor at age 50 and over. The tests are relatively fast and pain free and can detect early stages of glaucoma.
Talk to your doctor about these tests and any others that they may recommend at your stage in life. Eating healthy and staying active will help but some illnesses we can’t avoid so it’s better to be tested and catch them early.