There are some baseline screening tests that are recommended whenever you visit your GP or specialist for the first time. These include:
– Your height and weight
– Blood Pressure
– Dip stick urinalysis
– Lifestyle review, including diet, exercise and work/life balance assessment
If you are aged 45 years or older there are a number of other investigations which may prove useful in identifying warning or early signs of disease.
Blood tests including thyroid profile and cholesterol levels. A blood test will often find that you are developing problems before you have a specific complaint. Over one third of women will die from a heart attack or stroke, so knowing your cholesterol level (as well as your family history, weight, whether smoking and blood pressure) is very important as we get older.
Cervical cancer screening
Cervical cancer is relatively common, especially in younger women under the age of 45 years. Cancer does not develop overnight; cells undergo precancerous changes, often over a few years, before the cells turn cancerous or malignant. By examining the cervical cells in a smear during screening we can detect these precancerous cells and remove them when necessary so you do not get cancer. Annual cervical smear tests detect more cancers compared with a smear every three years. Have you been told you have an abnormal smear ?
Precancerous changes in cervical cells are caused by exposure to a family of viruses called human pappilomavirus or HPV. There are over 100 types or pahges, some cause warts, some cause problems with the cervix, the majority live with us and cause little or no problem. When we perform a smear we can test to see if you have HPV and whether it is a high risk HPV for your cervix. HPV 16 + 18 account for over 70% of cervical cancers so knowing if you have these particular HPV types is important if you have an abnormal smear. There is a vaccine which can protect against HPV 16 and 18.
Breast cancer screening
In non smoking women breast cancer is the most common cancer as they get older. Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, women registered with a GP are invited for their first mammogram (breast X-ray) some time around their 50th birthday and then every three years thereafter until your 70s. A mammography every two years will pick up more breast cancer and women with a high family risk are advised to have annual mammography.
Breast cancer screening aims to pick up breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is likely to be more effective. Women with a breast lump or pain may require a mammography independent of the screening programme.
Ovarian cancer screening
Ovarian cancer is often called the silent killer because it usually presents at an advanced stage. A combination of pelvic ultrasound scanning and a blood test using tumour markers (HE4 or the Roma score) are useful in spotting the early signs of ovarian cancer.
Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer is also a common cancer associated with getting older. A simple screening test at your GP (Faecal occult blood) can detect changes that may indicate you have the early stages of bowel cancer. Where there is a family history or more firm suspicion of cancer a colonoscopy can take a direct look at the bowel and make the diagnosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and fragile. It’s most common in women over 50, and symptoms include a tendency to fracture easily. If you show signs of early osteoporosis, screening via a bone density scan can help determine whether you have the condition or are at risk of developing it.
If you would like more information on these tests or would like to make an appointment ot see Mr Harrington please contact his PA