A mammogram is a special type of X-ray that examines breast tissue and can detect very early stages of cancer — about one to two years before the growth can be felt during a breast exam. According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women in Canada. Mammogram screening has helped to raise the survival rate. The test can be uncomfortable or slightly painful, especially in women who have sensitive breasts. To help ease discomfort, book the exam 10 days after your period ends, and avoid caffeine for several days prior to the mammogram.
An eye exam is important for not only testing your vision but also for detecting certain diseases. Seeing an ophthalmologist every two to three years will ensure you are checked for glaucoma and cataracts as well as signs of diabetes and high blood pressure. Your eye doctor will test your vision by having you read an eye chart. You will also be asked to follow an object with your eyes so that your doctor can track your eye movement as well as look in the back of your eye with a light. Your ophthalmologist might also test for glaucoma by using an instrument that measures eye pressure or with a small puff of air.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that heart disease is the number one cause of death in women over age 55. What is especially concerning is that there are often no symptoms to warn individuals of a heart problem that could cause a heart attack or stroke. Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart to check for any abnormal sounds. He or she will also take your blood pressure. High blood pressure, which usually has no symptoms, increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Your blood pressure should be checked at each annual checkup. Your doctor will also want to check your blood cholesterol, which involves a simple blood test that will require you to fast. High levels of "bad cholesterol" or LDL increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. It is recommended that cholesterol levels be tested every five years, beginning at age 20.
A Pap smear is a test that should be done after becoming sexually active or at age 21, whichever comes first. This test should be completed every two years, unless you have risk factors such as previous abnormal Pap smears, in which case the test should be completed once a year. Your doctor can give you a Pap smear during your regular pelvic examination. He or she will use a small swab to collect a sample of cells from your cervix. These cells will be examined at a lab to look for abnormalities, which can be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can develop into cervical cancer.
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