Starting from the late teens, females need to take better charge of their health. In the spirit of celebrating women in Africa and all over the world, Face2Face Africa takes a look at important health checks and examinations women should have on a regular basis, especially in light of March being Women’s month. Below, is a helpful guide as to what examinations women should take and when to take them.
African women should get…
1. A Complete Medical History and Physical Examination: A yearly “physical” is very important in overseeing one’s general health. Most physical exams include checks for weight, blood pressure, ear and eye examinations, urine analysis, liver function, kidney function, cholesterol, lipids, and blood glucose. An immunization record can also be kept and updated as needed.
2. A Breast Examination: It is no news that the most-common cancer among women is breast cancer. It is important to perform regular breast self-examinations so that any changes in the breast tissue can be noticed and addressed early. According to the American Cancer society, women between the ages of 20 and 39 should partake in a yearly breast exam.
From the ages of 40 and above, women are advised to have two yearly mammograms to detect any suspicious changes in the breast. However, if there is a history of breast cancer in one’s family, it is advisable to discuss screening options with a doctor. Remember that early detection is key in managing any form of cancer.
3. A Gynecological Examination: This helps to assess a woman’s general health with a focus on the breasts and pelvic reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and uterus. A pelvic examination includes an examination of the external genitalia, a speculum examination to visualize the vagina and cervix, and a bimanual (two hands) examination to check the uterus and ovaries.
During the speculum exam you may have a “Pap” test done and/or tests for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) depending on the reason for the visit and findings.
What is a Pap test?
A Pap test is a screening test for signs of cervical cancer or abnormal cells that have the potential to turn into cancer in the future. It is recommended every 2 to 3 years, starting at age 21, or at first exposure to sexual intercourse.
4. A Dental Check: Experts advise regular visits to the dentist every 6 months to ensure a healthy mouth and teeth along with daily dental hygiene.
5. An Eye Examination: Between the ages of 20 and 39, you should have seen an eye doctor for a routine check-up at least once. As you get older, it is advisable to increase the number of times you see an eye doctor, especially if you notice any problems. (Such as)
6. An Ear Examination: From the age of 20, it is advisable to get physical ear and hearing tests every 10 years, and at 50, it should be done every 3 years.
These are general guidelines to maintain your health, but remember that the road to good health begins with a healthful attitude. In addition, please be sure to avoid risky sexual behavior, reduce your stress level, become more physically active, enrich your diet with proper nutrients, and do not wait too long before you seek proper medical attention for unusual symptoms.
Ajibola is a medical doctor currently practicing occupational medicine in Lagos, Nigeria. She has a keen interest in health education and women’s health. She’s an avid encourager of education in any form and is passionately driven to educate Africans on their healthcare needs.