Women in Australia are fortunate to have access to excellent health care including a range of routine and specialised health checks to pick up small problems before they turn into bigger problems.
While some of these tests are specific to women like cervical screening and mammograms, or only apply to those of a certain age like bowel cancer screening, the majority are applicable to everyone to help ensure long-term good health.
There’s no need to be nervous about getting a test done. Discuss one of these 10 recommended checks for women and what it involves with your doctor at your next visit. Make your health a priority!
Pap smears have been replaced by a new screening test for human papilloma virus (HPV) to help protect you from cervical cancer. The new test is expected to protect almost one third more women from cervical cancer than the old pap smear. If you are aged 25 to 74, you should have your first cervical screening test two years after your last pap smear, then every five years thereafter.
Mammograms are a type of X-ray used to screen for breast cancer, increasing the chance of early detection and successful treatment. If you’re aged 50 to 74, you should have a mammogram every two years or if you notice an unusual lump in your breast.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is often diagnosed after a fracture caused by weakened bones has already occurred. But if you are deemed to be at a high risk of osteoporosis, your doctor may send you for a bone density test. It’s a short, painless scan that measures the strength of your bones, usually at the hip and spine.
Ask your GP about getting a skin check to pick up early signs of skin cancers like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. These checks are done by physical examination and may involve a biopsy for further testing if required.
More than 6 out of 10 Australian adults are classified as overweight or obese, which can cause or contribute to a number of health problems. You can (and should!) measure your own waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) to work out if you are a healthy weight or not. Women have an increased risk of disease if their waist circumference is 80 cm or more. BMI uses height and weight to estimate total body fat and associated disease risk. Find out your BMI using this online BMI calculator.
This simple, non-invasive test can be done in the doctor’s office and establishes whether your blood pressure is too high, too low or just right. High blood pressure can affect blood flow to your organs. While ‘perfect’ blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mm/Hg, most doctors would agree healthy blood pressure can range from 90/60 to 140/90.
This blood test measures the levels of cholesterol and other fats in your blood to predict your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s usually recommended every five years for people over 45 or those with high blood pressure or diabetes.
Also known as a blood sugar test, this measures the amount of glucose (a simple sugar) in your blood to check for diabetes. You may or may not be asked to fast beforehand. Your doctor could order this test if you are at risk of developing diabetes, have any symptoms suggesting the disease, or if you are pregnant. Pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes so are usually tested at around 28 weeks pregnant.
In Australia, about 80 people die each week from bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer. Screening tests aim to find any disease in its early stages to improve treatment outcomes. If you’re aged 50 to 74 you should be screened every two years. You will be sent a free test kit to use at home where you collect a sample of your stool (poo) to test for trace amounts of blood.
You should have an eye check with an optometrist every two years to make sure your vision and eye health are in tip-top shape. If you notice vision problems or anything unusual with your eyes in between regular tests, head to the optometrist to check it out. Read more about looking after your eyes.
We all lead busy lives and often the less urgent or exciting tasks like health checks keep getting pushed to the back of the to-do list. But it’s important to make the time to put you and your health first to ensure a long, healthy life. Start by booking one of the 10 tests above today!