Preventative care for women is crucial for maintaining good health and detecting potential health problems early on. One important aspect of preventative care for women is regular gynecological exams and breast cancer screenings. These exams and screenings can help detect and prevent a variety of health issues, including cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions that can impact women's reproductive health. A gynecological exam is a routine check-up that includes a pelvic exam and a pap smear. During a pelvic exam, a healthcare provider will examine a woman's reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. A pap smear, also known as a cervical cancer screening, is a test that looks for abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Regular pelvic exams and pap smears are important for detecting cervical cancer and other conditions, such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts, in their early stages. In addition to gynecological exams, regular breast cancer screenings are also an important part of preventative care for women. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and early detection is key to survival. There are two main types of breast cancer screenings: mammograms and clinical breast exams. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, and a clinical breast exam is a physical examination of the breast by a healthcare provider. Both types of screenings can help detect breast cancer early, when the chances of treating it are higher. It is recommended that women between the ages of 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years, and women over the age of 75 should continue to have mammograms as long as they are in good health. Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should talk to their healthcare provider about when to start having mammograms and how often to have them. Regular gynecological exams and breast cancer screenings can be a daunting prospect for some women, but they are important for maintaining good health. It is important to remember that these exams and screenings are not just about detecting cancer, but also about detecting and preventing other conditions that can affect women's reproductive health. It's important for women to make sure they are aware of their body and any changes that happen. It's also important for them to communicate with their healthcare provider about any concerns they have. They should be aware of the different types of screenings and tests that are available to them and understand the benefits of these tests. *Image by Alisa Dyson from Pixabay
Most people only see their doctor when they are sick. This is referred to as ‘diagnostic care’ and it usually involves your physician running tests and carrying out examinations to determine what’s wrong with you. As its name suggests, preventative care, on the other hand, focuses on helping you stay as healthy as possible. It does so primarily through regular physical examinations or check ups, which can often identify a range of medical issues before they develop into something more major. Examples of preventative care The concept of preventative care is all about being proactive rather than reactive. This means taking advantage of the resources and services that are available to you to help avoid more serious medical problems going forward. Examples of preventative care include: – Annual physical examination or check up – Laboratory and screening tests carried out during a check up – Yearly flu shots – Routine vaccinations – Yearly mammograms (usually for women 40 and older) – Colonoscopy (usually one every 10 years for those 50 and older) The benefits of preventative care As we’ve already mentioned, preventative care is designed to identify any potential health issues early on before they become a more serious problem. Doing so affords a number of benefits, including: – Better prognosis (this is especially true for certain cancers) – Greater treatment responses – Lower healthcare costs – Overall peace of mind for you While preventative care is important for everyone, it can be particularly beneficial for those who have a family history of certain conditions. Your physician will take this into account during any regular examinations you have, tailoring your tests to look for specific issues. Preventive care costs Depending on the type of insurance you have, preventative care is often 100% covered. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s always best to contact your insurance provider in the first instance. If preventative care is indeed covered by your insurance, taking advantage really is something that shouldn’t require much thought. The benefits are numerous and the peace of mind you can afford from doing so is priceless. *image courtesy of batian lu from Pixabay
Following on from our post last week on what to expect during a physical examination, today’s blog will explain some of the laboratory and screening tests you may also undergo. Now it’s important to note that there are no standard laboratory or screening tests during a physical exam, so what you are advised to have will depend on your physician and health history. Laboratory tests during a physical exam The main laboratory tests you are likely to undergo during a physical exam are: – Complete blood count (CBC) – A CBC is a blood test that helps evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of conditions, including anemia, infection and leukemia. – Chemistry panel – A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) will include an electrolyte panel (which measures levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate), kidney function tests, liver function tests and also measures glucose and calcium. – Blood glucose – To look for signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes. – Urinalysis – Using a sample of your urine, this test can detect a range of conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. – Fecalysis – A stool sample test (fecalysis) can detect certain conditions affecting your digestive tract, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrient absorption and even cancer. Screening tests during a physical exam In addition to the laboratory tests outlined above, you may also undergo the following screening tests: For women: – Mammogram – A screening test for breast cancer, usually recommended for women 40 and over – Pap smear – A screening test for cervical cancer, usually recommended for women 21 and older For men: – Prostate exam – A digital rectal exam is the most common method used for physically checking your prostate, while a PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood – both of which can flag early signs of prostate cancer. – Testicular exam – A physical exam that checks both testicles for signs of abnormality, including lumps, changes in size, and tenderness. – Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening – This simple ultrasound looks for a bulge or swelling in the aorta, and is usually recommended for men 65 and over, as they are most at risk. Both men and women: – Cholesterol test – Also called a ‘lipid panel’, this checks your cholesterol levels to see if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. – Osteoporosis - A bone density scan can help reveal potential issues relating to weak bones. – Hepatitis – Everyone should be tested for hepatitis C at least once to find out if they have ever been infected with the virus. – Colorectal – A colonoscopy is usually used to check for colorectal cancer and other abnormalities in your colon. If you are a smoker, or have a family history of certain conditions, your physician may also recommend further tests in addition to those above. * Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay
Artificial Intelligence is better at diagnosing breast cancer than human doctors. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Nature. For the research, an international team, including representatives from Google Health and Imperial College London, used anonymous X-ray images of 29,000 women to train a computer model so that it could spot breast cancer. When put to the test against six radiologists in reading mammograms, the algorithm came out on top. In fact, it was even proven to be as good as two doctors working together – the current system for assessing mammograms. And unlike the human experts who had access to the patients’ medical history, the AI had just the X-rays to go on. Specifically, the AI resulted in a reduction of 1.2% in false positives - when a mammogram is incorrectly diagnosed as abnormal – and a 2.7% reduction in false negatives, where a cancer is missed. While we’re not likely to see AI being used to diagnose or clear breast cancer patients any time soon, the technology could be used to assist radiologists and speed up diagnoses going forward. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dominic King, from Google Health, said: “Our team is really proud of these research findings, which suggest that we are on our way to developing a tool that can help clinicians spot breast cancer with greater accuracy.”
An innovative new blood test can detect breast cancer up to 5 years before symptoms appear, researchers say. Developed by a team at the University of Nottingham, England, the new blood test identifies specific immune system ‘autoantibodies’, which are produced when tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are present – like those produced by breast cancer cells. While the test is still only partially effective, it could eventually provide the best chance of detecting breast cancer early, enabling faster treatment and a greater chance of success. In the pilot study, the researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They then matched these samples with ones from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they used a technology called protein microarray to test the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease). The researchers used a technology called protein microarray to rapidly test the blood samples for autoantibodies against 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease. Speaking last Sunday at the U.K. National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, Scotland, researcher Daniyah Alfattani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nottingham's Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC), said: “The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.” At present, annual mammograms are the best way for doctors to detect the presence of breast cancer while in its early stages.
Overweight or obese women may not detect cancerous breast lumps until they are much larger and more difficult to treat, a Swedish study has found. Researchers from the Karolinksa Institute studied more than 2,000 women who developed breast cancer between 2001 and 2008, all of who had been receiving mammograms every 18 months to two years, as is standard in Sweden. They found that women with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) were more likely to have a larger tumour when detected than women who were slimmer. Lead author of the study, Fredrik Strand, said this was either because the tumours were harder to detect because overweight women have larger breasts or because their tumours grew faster. Women who are overweight are already at greater risk of developing breast cancer and, unfortunately, larger tumours carry a worse prognosis. Therefore, these women may need more frequent mammograms to help spot tumours early, say the researchers. Women who are judged to be at greater risk of developing breast cancer – such as those with a family history – are already offered more frequent screening. Speaking about the findings of the study, Strand said: “Our study suggests that when a clinician presents the pros and cons of breast cancer screening to the patient, having high BMI should be an important 'pro' argument”.
According to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, women should have a mammogram every two years once they reach the age of 50 and, even though routing screening for women in the 40s doesn’t hurt, it brings little benefits and should be an entirely personal choice. The task force also said that there still isn’t enough evidence to say whether more modern 3D mammograms are the best option for routine screening, or if extra testing is required for women with denser breasts. However, the advice has left some individuals confused as the American Cancer Society has long recommended yearly mammograms for women once they enter their 40s. Even though medical insurance often covers the cost of a mammogram, the task force still advises women to consult with their doctors on a one-to-one basis to discuss the pros and cons of screening. Task force chairman Dr. Michael LeFevre of the University of Missouri said: “Screening is most beneficial for women ages 50 to 74.” The report also found that 576 more false alarms were recorded when women started having biennial mammograms in their 40s instead of their 50s. This causes unnecessary stress, unneeded biopsies and over-diagnosis. While the report from the government advisory panel has only just been released, it is an open draft available for public comment until May 18. Photo credit: American Cancer Society
If you’re a woman over the age of 40 you should undergo routine health check-ups, even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms or feeling unwell. Some of these tests will probably be new to you but they are ultimately important. The earlier that cancers and other conditions are detected, the greater chance of a full recovery. Therefore, the following screening tests for women should be carried out in addition to the ones outlined in our previous blog post. Cervical Cancer Screening Even though cervical cancer screening tests are regular occurrences for women of all ages, it is important that you continue them as you get older. During screening, a doctor or nurse will use a speculum to hold your vagina open and gently collect some cells from your cervix using a small brush. These cells are subsequently tested in a laboratory and if your sample is normal, you will be invited for another test every three years until you reach the age of 49, after which time the screening schedule is extended to every five years until you reach the age of 64. Breast Cancer Screening Depending on your medical history and country of residence, you will usually be invited for a mammogram between your 50th and 53rd birthday. However, you should get into the habit of regularly checking your breasts and seeking medical advice if you detect anything unusual. Breast cancer screening is designed to pick up any signs of breast cancer at an early stage, making any subsequent treatment more likely to be effective. During your screening you’ll be asked to undress to the waist and your breasts will be X-rayed two times. Bone Test Osteoporosis affects both men and women but it is more common in women over the age of 50. The primary symptom of the disease is a tendency for bones to fracture easily. A DEXA bone scan will help determine if you have Osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it in the future. The scan itself is a special type of X-ray that measures your bone mineral density – hence why it is also known as a bone density scan – and is quick and painless.