Life as a woman is already tough enough. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of ourselves. We spoke to a doctor on the six essential health checks women should be booking in for…
Women of Singapore, we can all agree that now we’ve tried juggling the whole crazy act of marriage (or doing it solo), work (and hell yes being a SAHM is work), parenting and trying to keep sane, it’s also dawned upon us that if we don’t start looking after ourselves properly, how can we be expected to take care of anyone else? It’s time to take care of ourselves by making room in our busy schedules to stop and take check how we’re really feeling – both emotionally and physically – and get ourselves booked in for some crucial health examinations. Aside from the big ones (namely PAP smears and breast exams), what are the other health checks we should know? We got some advice from Dr Foong Tsin Uin of Osler Health International on the six essential health checks women should schedule in their diaries…
The six essential health screenings that every woman should book in for
1. PAP smear test
We all know that this is a must. Cervical cancer is a killer – but catch it in time and your chances of a full recovery skyrocket. Get checked every three years from age 25, or once sexually active. You don’t have to see a specialist for this. Just pop to your GP for this essential health check that could save your life.
2. Breast cancer screening
Whilst it is advisable to check your breasts for changes, lumps and bumps on a monthly basis at home, once you are age 50 then it’s wise to see your doctor for full breast cancer screening (usually an ultrasound or mammogram). If you have a family history of breast cancer, then screening is best carried out every year from age 40.
3. Cardiovascular disease risk screening
Exercise and a good diet are essential for keeping your heart strong and healthy, but the general advice is to get yourself screened every one to two years to make sure your ticker is ticking along nicely.
4. Colorectal cancer screening
If you’re over the age of 50, it’s time to start getting checked annually with a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – try saying that after a glass of wine. This can give early indications of cancer if it’s present in your body. You should also book a colonoscopy every five years. Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, second only to breast cancer. Even if the idea of these essential health checks have you squirming, a little embarrassment could just save your life.
5. Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) screening
There are no current guidelines for screening frequency, but you know your sexual history better than anyone. Not only can sneaky STDs be symptomless for years, but discover them too late and you run the risk of your fertility being compromised if left undiagnosed and untreated. It’s always better to be safe than sorry: get yourself checked for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis and HIV and pat yourself on the back for owning your sexual confidence.
6. Skin check
Whether you’re a sunbathing goddess or perennial shade seeker, the fact remains that Singapore is REALLY sunny. No matter how diligent you are with your sun protection precautions, those rays are still going to get through. If you notice any changes to moles or find skin pigmentation changes happening (especially if you are fair-skinned), then get yourself checked without delay.
And finally, Dr Foong, what’s your one piece of advice to women to remind them that their health is a priority?
You need to look after yourself in order to look after everyone else around you! We recommend regular health screenings which can pick up early signs of a condition. Early detection often can be treated successfully. We find women in Singapore wrongly believe that they need to see a gynaecologist for many of their female checkups (PAP smear, contraception etc). But actually, GPs are trained to carry out these tests too.
Are there any particular symptoms women should approach their doctor with for immediate health screenings?
Breast lumps (non-cyclical – that is, not related to the menstrual cycle) should always be investigated, as should any vaginal bleeding after a woman has been through menopause.
Remember to take care of yourself, ladies!