Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
4 minute read
30 Sep 2021
5:17 pm

13 medical screenings you should never skip

Renate Engelbrecht

Covid-19 has seen many women cancel or postpone medical appointments. Still, some health screenings are vital and should not be put off, even amidst a pandemic.

Health screenings for women. Image: iStock

Health experts have urged women to not skip their regular check-ups as the risk of undiagnosed illness increases. Dr Emmanuel Majachani, a specialist gynaecologist practicing at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, says that by skipping regular screenings, women are putting their health at risk, particularly when it comes to highly prevalent and serious illnesses like cervical cancer.

Here are some health screenings women should rather not skip:

Blood pressure test

High blood pressure puts both women and men at high risk for heart disease and strokes, hence getting it checked regularly is non-negotiable.

It is recommended that adults get their blood pressure checked at least every two years, starting at the age of eighteen, but if you have a history of high blood pressure, you might have to check it more often.

blood pressure
Measuring your blood pressure. Image: iStock

Cholesterol tests

High cholesterol causes fatty deposits in blood vessels, eventually causing high blood pressure which may result in heart disease or a stroke. If you are older than twenty, the rule of thumb is to get your cholesterol checked every four to six years. As you get older, doctors may recommend more regular check-ups.

Colorectal cancer screening

If you don’t have a family history of cancer, the recommended age to start going for a colorectal cancer screening is fifty. According to Mediclinic, a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) is done to screen for early colon cancer while checking for bleeding disorders in your gut.

For women who have a family history of cancer, a sigmoidoscopy (which looks at only a part of your colon) can be done every five years, or the more invasive colonoscopy (which examines the entire colon) can be done every ten years.

Pap smear

According to Netcare’s Dr Majachani, early stages of cervical cancer will not display any symptoms.

“This is another reason for having a pap smear done regularly, so that any cancerous cells can be detected early and treatment can begin.”

An annual pap smear should be on your list of health screenings from the age of 21.

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Mammogram

It is said that the risk of breast cancer increases as you get older, hence women aged fifty and older are encouraged to go for a mammogram every two years. It is recommended, though that women start going for annual screenings from the age of 45.

Bone density screening

Although women with risk factors for osteoporosis (low body weight or fractures) should get screened from an earlier age, the recommended age to start going for bone density screenings is 65.

bone density
Bone density screening. Image: iStock

Blood glucose tests

From the age of 45, women are encouraged to go for blood glucose tests every three years to check for diabetes or prediabetes. Women who are obese or have a family history of diabetes, should get screened earlier and more often.

Body Mass Index

This number is an important number for any woman aged eighteen and older. Adults should be screened for obesity – a factor that puts many at risk for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses – regularly. The BMI measurement indicates whether you are obese or not and often helps to put things in perspective when it comes to overall health and well-being.

Skin examination

While South Africa is known for its lovely, sunny weather, the sun could also have a negative effect on the skin. Women should self-examine their skin monthly, checking for new moles or changes to existing moles which might indicate the early stages of skin cancer. Women who have a family history of skin cancer might want to consult with their doctors or dermatologists on how often they should have their skin examined.

Dental check-ups

This is probably one of the check-ups many families left hanging during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to everydayhealth.com, women need biannual dental check-ups. These are preventative check-ups that help spot early signs of decay or any other problems and even though it is preventative, it is usually covered by most medical aids, so there is no reason not to go.

dental appointment
Dental check-up. Image: iStock

Eye tests

Depending on your age, risk factors and whether you are currently wearing corrective lenses like glasses or contact lenses, it is recommended that you go for an eye test every one to three years. Medical aids usually cover a routine eye test per year, which means this too is a test you have no reason to put off.