When it comes to health, prevention is always better than cure. In the Philippines, breast cancer accounts for 16% of all cancer diagnoses, and about 30% of cancer cases among women. Unfortunately, diagnosis doesn’t always happen at the early stages of the disease. Early detection could save more lives and increase the success rate of treatment. Besides this, there are also other health conditions specific to women that you should know about--and therefore get tested for.
The best way to stay on top of health concerns is to get tested regularly and attend timely screenings with your doctor. This Breast Cancer Awareness month, Doctor Anywhere wants to empower women with the knowledge of specific check-ups they should keep in mind to monitor changes in their bodies. Below are some health tests to keep in mind.
1. Breast examination
Breast exams are usually part of a woman’s annual physical examinations--but you don’t necessarily need to wait for that. Self-examination is just as important and effective in detecting early signs of breast cancer. It is recommended to perform a self-exam at the same time each month, usually 1 week after your period starts. During a breast exam, you or the attending physician would look for lumps, distortion, swelling, and soreness in the area, to name a few.
What happens if I find a lump in my breast? Finding a breast lump doesn’t always equate to having cancer, as many may be categorized as benign. However, it’s important to get it accurately evaluated by medical professionals as it is the only way to rule it out, usually via a mammogram.
Mammography is essentially an x-ray of your breast. This test is invaluable in detecting early signs of breast cancer even up to three years before any symptoms are felt. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, or you’ve recently discovered a lump in your breast, it would be helpful to get a mammogram regularly. This way, you’re always one step ahead and prepared for your health options along the way.
For women 40 and up, it’s recommended to get a mammogram yearly.
3. Pap smear
Also called a Pap test, this exam is mainly used to detect abnormal cell growth in your cervix that leads to cervical cancer. Other types of infections and inflammation can also be detected via Pap smear.
There is a misconception that only middle-aged or sexually active women should get a Pap smear, but this isn’t the case. It is recommended that all women aged 21 and up should get a Pap smear once every three to five years, or more frequently if there’s a family history of cervical cancer. This may also be accompanied by human papillomavirus (HPV) test in older women.
4. Pelvic exam
If you are encountering issues with your menstrual cycle, such as dysmenorrhea or irregularities, then you may need to get evaluated for conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Much like a breast exam, a pelvic exam is done by your physician palpating your pelvic area and feeling for any lumps or unusual protrusions in the area. This is usually done yearly during an annual physical examination.
If there is no chance to do this and you need immediate attention, a self-examination will also suffice. Relaying all the symptoms you’re feeling to the doctor will help them give you more accurate instructions on what to do next. This could mean a recommendation to get an ultrasound, blood tests, or laparoscopy to get a closer look at your uterus.
5. STI screening
If you are sexually active, it would be wise to check for sexually transmitted infections every year. Many STIs can affect your fertility and often don’t have symptoms. Besides being a responsible sexual partner, this is an especially important step if you are planning to start a family, as you may unknowingly pass the STI on to your child.
6. Preconception check-up
Before you decide to have a baby, it is important to have a conversation with your physician to rule out any potential complications that may arise during your pregnancy. This may include an ultrasound to check your womb for any abnormalities, blood tests for underlying health conditions, and discussions on the medications you’re currently taking. The more you’re prepared for what happens, the more you can have a safe and worry-free pregnancy.
If you notice any changes in your body or you’re planning to start a family soon, it’s time to consult a doctor. You can conveniently speak to a licensed doctor on the Doctor Anywhere app. Don’t be shy to ask questions about your health. Download the DA app today.