May 14–20 has been established by Womenshealth.gov, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as National Women’s Health Week. This week is a celebration of femininity, womanhood, and the unique health issues that face women of all ages.
From teenagers to the elderly, women face a wide variety of health problems, and National Women’s Health Week has been created as a way to spread awareness about these issues, and help women all around the country live happier, healthier lives.
This is especially important for nurses. Despite growth in male nurses, it remains a fact that nursing is an overwhelmingly female-dominated profession. In the US, female nurses outnumber male nurses by a ratio of nearly 10:1.
So it’s important that we take this time to discuss the health issues that could face many of us – whether we’re young or old. In this article, we’ll look at the 5 most important health screenings for women of all ages.
- Breast Exams And Mammogram – Yearly
Breast cancer is one of the single most deadly and widespread cancers in existence – and it affects women most of all. It’s estimated that around 40,000 people will die from breast cancer this year alone – and 99% of them will be women.
Because of this, it’s extremely important to get regularly tested and screened for breast cancer, especially if you have a family history of the disease. Until you’re 45 or so, this will usually take the form of a breast self-examination, or an examination performed by your general practitioner.
After the age of 45, yearly mammograms are recommended. As you near menopause, your risk of breast cancer increases. Your physician may advise you to start getting mammograms earlier if you have a family risk of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, behind only lung cancer. So get tested early and often, so that you can minimize your risk.
- Pelvic Exam And Pap Smear – Every 3 Years
Though breast exams and mammograms are usually common knowledge, fewer women get regular cervical cancer screenings. However, you should be regularly tested for cervical cancer.
Though it’s only about 10% as common as breast cancer, the survival rates for cervical cancer are much worse than they are for breast cancer – especially if the disease is not caught early.
Your family doctor or general practitioner should be able to offer you a pap smear and a pelvic exam. It’s recommended that you get a pap smear and pelvic exam every 3 years. This will allow you to catch the disease early if it does occur, and guarantee a clean bill of health.
- Blood Pressure Screening – Every 1-2 Years
Women should have their blood pressure checked regularly by their general practitioners. About 29% of all Americans have high blood pressure – and many are unaware of their condition.
Women are at a lower risk of high blood pressure when they’re younger – but as women age, their risk of high blood pressure increases. By age 65-74, women are much more likely to have higher blood pressure, compared to men.
So get your blood pressure checked regularly. Every time you visit your family doctor, you should have your blood pressure tested. If it’s high, they may recommend having it tested again in 6 months. If your screening is normal, you may be able to wait 2 or more years before getting retested.
- Cholesterol Screening – Every 5 Years
Women have a lower risk of heart disease, compared to men. This is partly because estrogen has a tendency to raise HDL cholesterol – good cholesterol – and help prevent heart disease. However, as women age, their estrogen levels go down. This is especially true during menopause.
After menopause, the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol rises dramatically. As women age, their triglyceride and cholesterol levels rise – this is exacerbated by conditions like weight gain and diabetes.
Because of this, women should have their cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. Though heart disease isn’t as common among women as it is in men, heart disease is the cause of death 1 in 4 women the US.
- Skin Cancer Tests – Yearly, Depending On Risk Factors
Invasive melanoma is the sixth most common cancer among women – especially Caucasian women. Though the tanning fad of the mid-2000s has mostly ended, there are still quite a few women who are at increased risk of developing skin cancers and melanoma.
It’s estimated that melanoma in Caucasian women under the age of 44 has increased by 6.1% annually – a trend which reflects the use of indoor tanning beds and excessive sun exposure.
Because of this, women who have a high risk of skin cancer (excessive sun exposure, pale skin, use of indoor tanning beds) should have their skin tested regularly.
Usually, a general practitioner can simply perform a visual test which allows them to observe any misshapen moles or other signs of melanoma.
You should also keep an eye on your own body. If you have moles, make sure they’re not growing or changing – and minimize your exposure to the sun by wearing large hats, covering up in intense sun, and regularly using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Celebrate By Keeping An Eye On Your Health!
When you work in a hospital, you often avoid checkups. We’ve all been there. But this Women’s Health Week, make it a point to schedule your regular checkups and other preventative screenings. By doing so, you can make sure that you’re in good health, and that your risk factors for common diseases, cancers, and conditions are minimized.
Take the time to schedule your screenings today – and encourage other women in your life to do the same. By doing so, we can help spread awareness about the importance of regular health screenings for women, and help provide better health outcomes for every woman in the United States.