Five Medical Tests Every Woman Needs

Every woman needs to be screened for certain serious, sometimes deadly, medical conditions. Here are 5 tests you need to have right away.

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Early detection is often the best prevention. But do you know which common medical tests you should have this year?

There are 5 tests that target life-altering, sometimes deadly, conditions every woman needs to watch for. These include screenings for oral cancer, peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the arteries), depression, skin cancer and glaucoma.

Here are compelling reasons why you need to get these tests now:

  • Oral cancer has one of the lowest 5-year survival rates of all cancer, most likely because lesions are not detected until too late. Early detection can improve your survival by 90%, yet not every dentist screens regularly for oral cancer, so you have to insist on it.
  • Peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the arteries) significantly increases your chances of heart attack or stroke.
  • Serious depression affects an estimated 19 million Americans annually. Depressive disorders have been linked to increased mortality from other chronic illnesses like heart disease and possibly cancer.
  • Skin cancer is the #1 cancer in America. Early detection can increase your chance of survival by 600%.
  • Glaucoma is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness.

Here are 5 tests you can't afford to overlook:

 

Test 1: Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can be caused by chronic inflammation or transmittal of the HPV virus through oral sex. A screening involves using multi-spectral technology--3 different lights that allow an oral health professional to see lesions invisible to the naked eye. If an abnormality is detected, a biopsy is the next step.

Besides requesting an oral cancer screening at your dentist office, examine yourself when brushing and flossing. Look for abnormalities in the mouth, such as white patches and ulcers that don't heal.

Practice prevention by avoiding heavy alcohol and tobacco use and eat plenty of alkaline, antioxidant foods, like garlic and green vegetables

Test 2: Ankle-Brachial Index

The Ankle-Brachial Index test is used in preventive cardiology to detect peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the arteries). Risk factors include smoking, a family history of diabetes or heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The ABI uses a Doppler device to compare the strength of the pulse near the ankle to the strength of the pulse in upper arm near the heart. Both blood pressures should match. When ankle pressure is higher than the arm's, it can signal plaque build-up in the legs.

To prevent artery blockages, don't smoke, exercise and practice good nutrition.

Test 3: Depression

Untreated depression can lead to risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse that contribute to poor overall health. To find out if you might be at risk for this serious medical illness, ask yourself these questions:

Over the past few weeks, do you take pleasure in doing things?

Have you been feeling down or hopeless?

If you've experienced these feelings the majority of time there's  a 75% chance you have a depressive disorder and a 38% of  having a major depressive disorder

For more help detecting and treating depression, click here. If you think you might be depressed, seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional.

Test 4: Skin Cancer

Risk factors for skin cancer include fair complexion, family history, excessive sun exposure and severe sunburns as a child. To check for skin cancer, see a dermatologist annually and also perform monthly self-screenings. Know how to recognize the ABCDE's of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry - one half is different than the other
  • Border - edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred
  • Color - uneven and may include different shades
  • Diameter - spot is greater than 6 millimeters across
  • Evolution - if a spot changes any of the above over time

Melanoma can be difficult to spot. Don't overlook easy-to-miss areas such as scalp, under nails and between fingers and toes. Use a mirror to check behind your ears and neck.

Protect yourself against skin cancer by wearing SPF 30 sun block while outdoors and for more information on preventing skin cancer, click here.

Test 5: Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve resulting in vision loss and blindness. It occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eye rises. Risk factors include African American descent, near-sightedness and a family history. 

A tonometry, the typical initial test for glaucoma, involves measuring intraocular pressure after numbing the eyes with drops. To check for optic nerve damage, an opthalmoscope is used to look directly through the pupil to the back of the eye.

Regular vision checkups help detect glaucoma in its early stages before irreversible damage occurs.