May 15, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

As we all know the best cure is prevention. For women there are five exams that are key to maintaining good health and detecting problems in their earliest stages. In most cases all five can be performed in less than three hours. So when you are planning a strategy to improve healthy habits, be sure these exams are included. 

1. Bone Density Exam

The US Preventative Task Force recommends women aged 65 and older be screened for osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the first time an older woman discovers she has osteoporosis is usually when she falls and fractures a bone. That is why it is important for women to undergo an enhanced form of X-ray technology that measures bone loss. This painless exam can help your doctor determine any existing risks by measuring bone density and take preventative measures to avoid serious injury and continued bone loss.

2. Heart Basics

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet many do not take action to prevent it. A series of five basic tests can assess a woman’s heart health by measuring her good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. “When women stay on top of their blood pressure, cholesterol and so on it is less likely we will be seeing them when they've had a heart attack,” says John Ryan, MD, a cardiologist with University of Utah Health. Partner exams with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Your heart will love you for it.

3. Breast Exam

As with all of these exams, early detection is key to recovery. Experts estimate that one out of eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. An estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year. And over forty thousand of those diagnosed are expected to die from this disease.

Starting at age 20, doctors want to see women get an exam every three years until age 40. Then, exams should be scheduled every one to two years. “ The goal of a screening mammogram is to find cancers early and to find them before they've gotten to the lymph nodes,” says Nicole Winkler, MD, a radiologist with University of Utah Health. “If we do it every year we do think that will give us more of a chance of finding a cancer.”

4. Pelvic Exam/Pap Tests

This simple exam can make a big difference in detecting early signs of cervical cancer. “Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death among women in the US,” experts say. “But today many cases of cervical cancer are prevented through widespread use of the Pap test.” Beginning at age 21 (or earlier, if you are sexually active), a pelvic exam and Pap smear should be scheduled every two years.

5. Skin Exam

Those early summer days of combining baby oil and three hours of sunbathing on a dark trampoline are now taking their toll on our health. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that each year over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million Americans. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. The good news is that skin exams are fast, easy, and an effective way to track early detection and treatment.

Like they say, when you have your health, you have everything. By scheduling these five exams, you can establish a healthy base that is sure to support a lifetime of wellness.

heart pap smear bone density mammogram

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