It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Among the disruptions – during the lockdown, millions of women have skipped key health screenings, according to research from the American Cancer Society.
If you’re off course — or just want to review recommended health screenings — don’t beat yourself up, take action to prioritize your health.
Recommendations from some leading health organizations can give you an idea of what to plan for. It’s also important for women to know that risk factors can cause some screening to start at a younger age or be performed more frequently than women without the same risk factors.
Heart health screening
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure is one of the most important screening tests because high blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke — and usually has no symptoms.
If your blood pressure is below 120/80, the AHA recommends getting it checked at least every two years from the age of 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more frequently.
Also from the age of 20, the Heart Association suggests having a fasting lipoprotein profile done every four to six years. This is a blood test that tells you your levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. Your doctor may want to check your cholesterol levels more frequently if you have risk factors or are over 40 years old.
Your weight, waist size, and BMI (body mass index) may also be part of a heart screening, along with a discussion about smoking, physical activity, and diet.
And since diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women by about four times, your doctor may also want you to do a fasting plasma glucose test. The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone have a test for risk of future diabetes and prediabetes after age 45 and every three years thereafter if the test is normal.
The American Cancer Society offers screening advice for a number of cancers, including two that particularly affect women — cervical cancer and breast cancer.
According to the ACS, cervical cancer screening should begin at age 25 and continue through age 65, and people who have been vaccinated against HPV should continue to follow screening recommendations for their age group. Options include a PAP test every three years or a primary HPV (human papillomavirus) test every five years.
The ACS does not recommend annual breast cancer screening with mammography before the age of 40. The Cancer Society states that women between the ages of 40 and 44 should be able to start a yearly mammogram if they wish. Women ages 45 to 54 should have a mammogram annually, and women age 55 and older can continue annually or switch to every two years.
“Screening should continue for as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 years or more,” the ACS website says.
Well, women’s exams
according to dr Kyle Heber, a specialist in internal medicine affiliated with Adventist Health Bakersfield, many screenings can be performed during a health assessment.
“If a woman has delayed her routine cancer screening, whether she is premenopausal or postmenopausal, the best next step is to simply schedule an examination with her GP or gynecologist,” said Dr. lifter.
“If she is indeed due for an updated Pap smear, that can be performed by the provider at that visit, and the appropriate imaging study for her breast cancer screening can be ordered at the same time and followed up at a later visit,” he said.
If a woman prefers to have it all wrapped up in a single visit, Dr. Heber suggests that she call her provider’s office in advance to request an order for her routine mammogram so she can complete it and have the results available for review at the visit.
Offers from Bakersfield Heart Hospital
Cancer screening is important, but many women don’t realize that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States, according to Bakersfield Heart Hospital’s Women’s Heart Center.
“One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, but only one in 40 will die from it,” Bakersfield Heart Hospital reports on its website. “One in three women dies from coronary artery disease or a heart attack. A third of these heart attacks go undetected. More than one in five women suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease.”
Luckily, the hospital offers two easy ways for women to get in touch with their heart health.
Visit bit.ly/3QumMh7 for a free heart health assessment you can do yourself online.
Or you can sign up for a health screening, which includes a blood pressure test, cholesterol screening, cardiac risk assessment, one-on-one consultation with a heart health expert, and a heart disease risk survey and personalized report to take to your primary care center if necessary .Physician or cardiologist. There is a $25 fee for this service, which is not reimbursed by most insurance plans. You can make an appointment by calling 661-316-6000 or online at bit.ly/3zBHd4W.
Dignity Women’s Health Center
The Dignity Health Women’s Center – Southwest also offers a range of health screenings for women, including an online assessment of risk factors for bladder control problems (dignityhlth.org/3Q7XqWp). Dignity Health also offers health screenings at various locations in Bakersfield. View the schedule online at Dignityhlth.org/3QsUiEp or call 661-861-0852.
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