Wednesday, March 9

Five health checks women must take serious

Women and matters that concern the female gender are on the front burner of most discussions this week. Why? There have been week-long activities lined up by stakeholders, international organisations and the corporate world to celebrate women who have excelled in life.

Studies have shown that women generally spend more money on cosmetics, shoes and clothes than they do on their health. Given a choice, it is no exaggeration to say that many Nigerian women would rather spend N30,000 on ‘aso-ebi’ (party cloth) than pay the same amount for a cervical cancer vaccine.

Below are the lists of screenings doctors recommend every woman must undergo, as listed by Punch:

Self-breast examination

Oncologists (cancer care specialists), note that the diagnosis of breast cancer starts with the woman, who is observant and takes action when necessary. Professor of Oncology and Radiation at the College of Medicine, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Ifeoma Okoye, notes that a major reason why women who had breast cancer in the past died in spite of access to treatment is late presentation at the hospital with the disease.

The oncologist recommends that women of all ages should examine their breasts every month and report unusual changes to a doctor for medical examination. She states, “It is important for every woman to perform self-breast examination every month. If you notice anything that is odd, especially a lump that hurts you while you are doing it, you need to see the doctor.

“If it is painless, you should also see the doctor. There are painless lumps that are also cancerous. Early detection starts in your youth. “Breast cancer is no longer a disease of the old. There are young women with breast cancer and this explains why every mother should teach their female children how to carry out the examination.”

Pap smear test

The Pap smear test checks the cervix and the vagina of a woman for any abnormal cells that could develop into cancerous cells. Ideally, the test should be conducted as soon as a woman turns 21 and should be repeated every three years. Once she turns 30, she can wait five years between tests unless she senses any abnormal changes in her body.


Doctors recommend that every woman should undergo a mammogram screening after the age of 40. Mammograms are a low-dose X-ray that screens your breast and other surrounding tissues for cancerous lumps that may be too small to feel during a regular breast exam. Always remember that early detection of breast cancer can lead to a cure.

Osteoporosis X-ray

Many women face weakened bones after menopause. This puts them at a greater risk of osteoporosis where weakened bones begin to deteriorate. The osteoporosis X-ray is recommended for women after the age of 65. The screening includes a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry that measures the bone marrow density and determines the risk for osteoporosis before the fracture occurs.

Ovarian cancer screening

Ovarian cancer affects women between the ages of 50 and 75. It kills approximately 15,000 women each year. Therefore, women should do this exercise regularly. During the exercise, the doctor performs a pelvic examination to check for ovarian cancer in the exposed vulva and then proceeds inwards to check the uterus and ovaries for the same.

Heart disease screening

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. A future president, mother, wife, scientist, sister, and boss dies roughly every minute from it. More disheartening still: most, if not all of these deaths are preventable, trailing a wake of modern preventative care, drugs and surgery.

Heart disease rates among men have been steadily declining, while women’s rate of decline has been slower. A very important factor?Women’s heart disease symptoms can look starkly different from men’s. Contrary to the pervasive myth that you have to go down on a shag rug clutching your chest and wailing in pain to be having a heart attack, women frequently experience subtle and often dismissible symptoms they’re trained to ignore, like problems breathing, fatigue, stomach aches, and a vague sense of uneasiness. Many women think they have the flu, acid reflux, or are just plain exhausted.

Statistically, women are significantly more likely than men to have their heart disease symptoms ignored by a health care provider or hospital. They are also twice as likely to die in the first year after a heart attack.

Heart disease kills more women than men each year. Therefore, it becomes important that women above the age of 50 along with women who have a family history of the disease should undergo yearly Electrocardiography screening to monitor their heart for any abnormalities.

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