Time for a test

Important medical tests every woman should go for and why

Dr Ravi Gaur

Tangled up in professional and personal life, routine health checkups are nowhere on the long to-do list of most women today. Running short of time, women compromise with their health to fulfil other commitments. Highlighting the need for women to pay attention to their health, below are some medical tests that they should undergo:

Complete blood count (CBC)

According to findings of the new Global Nutrition Report 2017, in India, more than half (51 per cent) of all women of reproductive age have anaemia. Anaemia among women in the reproductive age often leads to health issues in the mother as well as the child. Anaemic women are prone to infection and may need blood transfusion during pregnancy. Children borne of such women often remain under-developed with poor immunity. An annual or bi-annual complete blood count (CBC) is recommended for women for timely and suitable prevention and treatment.

Mammogram (breast cancer screening)

Breast cancer is increasing at an alarming rate in India. It can be treated if diagnosed early. Therefore, an early diagnosis and screening are of utmost importance. Those having a family history of breast cancer or those who have recently given birth to a child should go for mammogram once every year once they turn 35.

Other women can start with mammograms and clinical breast exams from 40 years as mammogram detects the breast cancer up to two years before a tumour can be felt.

If more and more women take mammogram screening and diagnosis on a timely basis, more lives can be saved as the treatment then starts on time, depending on the severity of the cancer. 

Vitamin B-12

Some women tend to experience memory lapses or neurological disorders just before or during menopause. This could be due to vitamin B-12 deficiency. A vitamin B-12 blood test can help in timely treatment. 

Diabetes screening

As diabetes does not show any symptoms during the early stages, it may lead to kidney and vaginal infections in women. Though timely diabetes screening is crucial for all women, those with hypertension, gestational diabetes mellitus or polycystic syndrome, impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance must undergo the screening as they often run high on diabetes risks.

Thyroid (TSH), T3 and T4

As compared to men, women tend to have higher chances of developing thyroid, especially after pregnancy and menopause. Weight changes, constipation, muscle weakness, dry and thinning hair are some symptoms of mild thyroid issues. Women having goitre, anaemia or type 1 diabetes should go for thyroid screening tests such as TSH, T3 and T4, TSI. Thyroid may result in heavy or irregular periods and even cause early menopause and amenorrhea (a condition in which periods stop for several months). Undiagnosed thyroid can cause severe disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis and thyroid cancer.

Vitamin D

At least 70 per cent of women in north India are vitamin D deficient. Women with low vitamin D levels have been found at a greater risk of heart strokes, diabetes, preeclampsia, infertility and breast cancer. Vitamin D helps boost energy, strengthens bones and balances hormones. Vitamin D3 can increase life expectancy. The excessive production of estrogen is one of the main causes of infertility and vitamin D helps lower estrogen.

HPV/ pap smear

Ideally, sexually-active women should go for HPV/pap smear tests every three years because early cervical screening significantly reduces the cervical cancer mortality rate. The cervical screening is crucial for women in the 21 to 29 age group. The test can detect the precancerous changes in cells from the cervix, while HPV or human papillomavirus test looks for the virus in cells. Poorly managed HPV infection may become a cause of cervical cancer in women.

—The writer is COO, Oncquest Laboratories Ltd, Panchkula

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