Although we maintain healthy lifestyle habits, there are a series of check-ups that should never be overlooked, as they could detect serious problems
Despite the fact that the best way to care for patients is personalized diagnoses, prepared by the GP based on symptoms for which the doctor is consulted, there are a series of standardized tests that are essential from a certain age. And, not surprisingly, some are different for men and women.
No matter how fast the treatments progress, the truth is that preventive medicine will always be the most effective and cheapest way to stay healthy. In diseases like cancer this is evident : half of the deaths would be avoided by quitting smoking, drinking in moderation, maintaining a healthy weight and practicing a little exercise.
But, even though we maintain healthy lifestyle habits, there are a series of check-ups that we cannot miss. Caroline Weinberg has published in Vitals a list of the tests that every woman should do, regardless of the physical exams and blood and urine tests that all GPs routinely perform, and we have adapted these to the guidelines. currently applied in Spain.
1. Breast exam
These types of tests are essential to detect any abnormality that occurs in the woman’s breasts. There are two types: the clinical examination , which is carried out by your doctor, and the self-examination , which is carried out at home.
The ideal is to carry out the first examination with the help of the doctor and that he indicates how the examination is performed correctly
Although breast cancer is very rare in women younger than 30-35 years, gynecologists routinely perform this test in their annual reviews of all their patients, feeling the breasts and armpits for alterations in the themselves. Doctors also recommend that after menopause all women look for bumps on their own breasts, more or less three or five days after the beginning of the period, when the breasts are not so sensitive, and maintain this habit every month. .
It should be borne in mind that the mammary gland has a nodular consistency, so that in the first explorations we may have the sensation that we detect lumps that are not such. The ideal is to carry out the first examination with the help of the doctor and that he indicates how the examination is performed correctly.
As the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) explains , mammography “is the most effective test to diagnose breast cancer early, since it is capable of detecting lesions long before they can be discovered by oneself or by the doctor”.
The test is basically an x-ray of the breast done with a special x-ray machine that adjusts to the size of the breast . This is not a pleasant test, but it is still the best way to rule out the presence of tumors.
Mammography is still the only way to do a massive screening for this common cancer, but little by little some protocols are being changed
For some time now, some critical voices have emerged with the need to undergo this test too often. According to a controversial study published in 2014 in ‘The British Medical Journal’, one in five cancers detected on a mammogram does not pose a real danger to the woman’s health, but they are still treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery .
Mammography is still the only way to do a massive screening for this common cancer, but little by little some protocols are being changed. Until last year, the American Cancer Society recommended that women have a mammogram a year starting at age 40; now it urges them to be carried out from the age of 45 and only until the age of 54. From this age, the studies would be delayed to one every two years, instead of continuing with the usual periodicity of one a year that up to now was advising.
3. Genetic test for breast cancer
Patients carrying a mutation in the BRCA genes have a 65% higher risk of developing breast cancer throughout their lives. This genetic test rules out or confirms its presence, which is hereditary by the maternal route and, although it is not recommended for the general population (the risk of a spontaneous mutation is less than 0.3%), it is highly recommended for all those women with family history of the disease.
The most famous carrier of this gene is actress Angelina Jolie, who publicly announced that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy, an operation that involves the removal of both breasts, to prevent the onset of breast cancer. After undergoing the genetic tests, Jolie found that in her case the chances of cancer were even higher than usual: 87% breast, and 50% ovaries. And so she decided to end the root problem.
It should be noted, of course, that not all women with the gene must make such a drastic decision, that it is only recommended as a last option for women with very high genetic chances of suffering from breast cancer. Most, in fact, opt for active surveillance , undergoing mammograms every three months to detect cancer if it appears very early.
4. Pelvic exam
This test, which is routinely performed by gynecologists from the age of 13 or 15 , consists of three parts: the examination of the outside of the genitals, or vulva; analysis of the interior with a speculum (a device that helps open the walls of the vagina and correctly view the cervix); and a manual examination to palpate the internal organs (the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes). Occasionally, the doctor may accompany the test with a rectovaginal exam (inserting a finger into the anus during the test).
It is recommended to undergo a pelvic exam once a year from the age of 21, as part of the annual gynecologist review
The test is not a pleasant thing – a doctor puts his hand into your vagina and puts pressure on your abdomen – but it is the best way to detect multiple problems such as cysts, fibroids, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is recommended to undergo such a test once a year from the age of 21, as part of the annual gynecologist review.