As soon as International Women’s Day nears, I see a lot of ads that prompt women to “Pamper Yourself” or “Celebrate Womanhood” by spending a day at the spa, getting your nails painted or, perhaps, a new hairstyle.
While I have nothing against salons and spas ( I just don’t think they have any exclusive connection to womanhood), I would urge women to pay heed to the most important aspect of life, gender notwithstanding- Your Health. True pampering will come from planning your next screening exams to ensure you are disease free. Following is the list I recommend:
Annual health exam
Your yearly visit to your doctor includes questions about your current and past medical issues, a complete physical exam, and blood or urine tests as deemed necessary by your physician.
- Age 21-29 years: Screen every 3 years with cytology alone
- Age 30-65 years: As per current recommendations, co-testing with cytology and HPV testing is to be done every 5 years. If this is not available, screening with cytology alone every 3 years should be continued.
- Women who are at high risk of cervical cancer because of a suppressed immune system (for example HIV infection, organ transplant, or immunosuppressant use) or because they were exposed to DES in utero may need to be screened more often.
Breast Self-exam and Mammography
There are many ways to perform breast self-exam. It works best if you stand in front of a mirror with the chest exposed. Look at your breasts in the mirror for visual signs of dimpling, swelling, or redness on or near the breasts.
After you look, you feel. Gently feel your breasts with the pads of your fingers to feel for lumps or soreness. There are several common patterns, which can be followed to ensure covering all areas. I usually suggest mentally dividing the breast into four quadrants and checking each quadrant separately. Finally, if you are not breastfeeding, you should gently squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge.
For women before menopause, most methods suggest that the self-exam be performed at the same stage of the menstrual cycle, because the normal hormone fluctuations can cause changes in the breasts. The most commonly recommended time is just after the end of the menstrual period. Women who are postmenopausal or have irregular cycles might do a self-exam once a month regardless of their menstrual cycle.
For women at average risk, screening mammograms should be performed annually beginning at age 40 to check the breasts for any early signs of breast cancer. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, you and your doctor may decide that you will be start screening mammograms at a younger age.
Track your period
Use a calendar to mark the first day of your period each time you have it. Normal frequency of periods ranges from every 3 weeks to every 6 weeks. For the first 2 years after the first period, irregularity is common while the hormones achieve balance. During times of stress, it is not uncommon for your periods to go out of whack. However, if you miss a period and you are sexually active, assume you are pregnant, until proven otherwise! Periods that are too heavy, too light or of abnormal frequency need to be evaluated by a physician. There are several period tracker apps that you can use to make the task easier.
Adults also need vaccines.
– Flu shot annually
– HPV vaccine: can be administered until age 26 years
– Pneumococcal vaccine: booster dose (or first dose) if you are 65 years of age
– Td vaccine: every 10 years, TDaP if you are pregnant
Your physician should check for any other missing vaccines and administer them if indicated. Some adults may require additional vaccine depending on risk factors.
How do you monitor your health? Share with us in the comment section