By: Natasha Archary
Regular screenings put your health in check, giving you an indication if you could experience health complications in the future.
With the cost of private healthcare and the void in public health in the country, many of us save our doctor and hospital consultations for emergencies only. So much so that if something is wrong, we tend to only find out about it, too late.
Tests to get despite your health status
Waiting for symptoms to show up before you seek medical attention is reactive, not proactive. By then, complications could arise and the chance of overcoming an illness, condition, or medical ailment may not be high.
Apart from the regular cold and flu, bacterial infections, or mild irritations and discomfort, many of us avoid consultations with a physician, doctor, or specialist because we don’t think we need to.
The truth is every woman should make her health a priority with healthy habits, such as eating correctly, exercising, moderating stress, and getting regular screenings to rule out breast cancer, pap smears, cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure readings amongst others.
Find a specialist you feel comfortable with
It’s fantastic that many pharmacies now offer routine tests for blood glucose and cholesterol, breast examinations, and even pap smears. For those of us who are limited with time, a quick dash to the nearest pharmacy during lunch can be a convenience like no other.
But this does mean that it’s a basic examination and should the results pick up a cause for concern you will need to consult with a doctor. Finding a suitable specialist or doctor, falls heavily on affordability, as there may be restrictions with your medical aid, location, expertise, and whether or not you feel comfortable.
Granted, specialist fees don’t come cheap. But if you can afford a good medical cover, it means you have access to some of the most qualified doctors around and can avoid delays in treatment. Something people who rely on public hospitals have to contend with.
Choose your medical practitioner with these factors in mind:
- Affordability and payment options – Some specialists require a cash upfront consultation fee. Others may claim this from your medical aid directly or give you the option to pay and then claim back. Also, enquire about the hourly rate if applicable or if the consultation and all routine tests are inclusive of the fee.
- Waiting period – The waiting list for a first-time consultation can be anything up to 3 weeks. If you are referred by a doctor or hospital that may help confirm an earlier booking. Some specialists don’t have a long waiting period and it could just be a matter of phoning around before picking the first available one.
- References – Most doctors, medical practices, and specialists have website references today. Some even allow a review on search engines for ease of reference. A thorough background check on the specialist may put your mind at ease a bit before confirming that appointment.
- Second opinions – If for any reason you feel you were not treated professionally or didn’t like the demeanour or approach of the specialist, please feel free to get a second opinion from another doctor, or until you feel you’re receiving the medical care you not only require but deserve.
What should women screen for and how often?
Depending on your age ladies, it is important to keep regular checks going on the following:
It is not recommended that women under the age of 40 get a mammogram. But you can perform a monthly breast self-exam. If breast cancer is prevalent in your family, your doctor may advise that you get a mammogram annually.
Women 40 and over are advised to go for annual mammograms. If you are between the ages of 50 to 75, you should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on the risk factors you may or may not have.
- Cervical cancer screening
Pap smears or screenings for cervical cancer are recommended for women from the age of 21.
The frequency of pap tests depends on a few factors:
– If you are between the ages of 30 to 65, you should get a pap test every 3-years and an HPV test every 5 years.
– If you or your sexual partner has been sexually active with multiple partners apart from each other, you should have a pap test done every 3-years.
Women between 65 and 70 years of age can stop having pap tests as long as they have had 3 normal tests within 10 years.
Read: Symptoms of fibroids
- Regular screenings with a gynaecologist
Apart from pap tests, if you are trying to conceive or have complications with your monthly menstrual cycle, it is important to have regular check-ins with your gynae. To diagnose, rule out, monitor, and control any complications or irregularities.
These may include, fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or hormonal imbalances that may affect your periods. If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, your gynae will need to keep track of your pregnancy to ensure that everything is going smoothly, that baby is healthy and to help you with your birth plan.
Read: All things endometriosis
Apart from the above women’s health issues, regular screenings for bone density, BMI, colorectal cancer, diabetes, dental exams, lung cancer, eye tests etc should occur should your doctor find risk factors in any of the routine check-ups you undergo.
Take control of your health and know how to read the signs your body gives you, so you can track and monitor any changes that may spark concern.