“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment” This famous saying has been used to justify taking care of everything in life from your automobile to your health. Because of the changes in health care over the past 20 years, and the constant demand for cost savings in medical care, preventive screenings have either been dismissed, reduced or eliminated. The CDC (center for disease control) still recommends regular screenings for the major health concerns of our time. Screenings should take place based on your family health history, present health or according to your age. By performing an initial screening early you can track your health and schedule follow-up health care and screenings appropriately. Many preventive screenings have been recognized as a cost-effective way to identify and treat potential health problems before they develop.
The following big 5 will help you direct your health providing wellness for life. The timing recommendations are provided by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Breast and Ovarian Cancer:
Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives and is one of the leading killers in the United States, second only to lung cancer. It is not clear why some women get breast cancer but the following are risk factors we do not have control over!
- Age – the chance of getting breast cancer rises as a woman gets older
- Genes – there are two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 that greatly increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested.
- Personal factors – beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55
- Other risks include being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 or having dense breasts.
- Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in size or shape of the breast or discharge from a nipple. Breast self-exam and mammograms can find breast cancer early when it is most treatable.
The USPSTF recommends screening mammography, with or without clinical breast examination (CBE), every 1-2 years for women aged 40 and older.
Cervical Cancer is a growing health concern for women. It is a silent killer because it may not have symptoms at first. Later, you may have pelvic pain or bleeding from the vagina. It usually takes several years for irregular cells in the cervix to turn into cancer cells. Your health care provider can find abnormal cells by doing a Pap test – examining cells from the cervix under a microscope. If there are abnormal cells, you will need a biopsy. By getting regular Pap tests and pelvic exams you can find and treat any problems before they turn into cancer.
USPSTF recommendations: Direct evidence to determine the optimal starting and stopping age and interval for screening is limited. Indirect evidence suggests most of the benefit can be obtained by beginning screening within 3 years of the onset of sexual activity or age 21 (whichever comes first) and screening at least every 3 years.
The colon and rectum are part of the large intestine. Colorectal cancer occurs when tumors form in the lining of the large intestine. It is common in both men and women.
- The risk of developing colorectal cancer rises after age 50.
- You’re also more likely to get it if you have colorectal polyps,
- If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, or ovarian cancer
- If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- If you eat a diet high in fat, or if you smoke
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Frequent gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
- Weight loss with no known reason
- Nausea or vomiting
Because you may not have symptoms at first, it’s important to have screening tests. Everyone over 50 should get screened. The USPSTF strongly recommends that clinicians screen men and women 50 years of age or older for colorectal cancer.
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Usually they are written one above or before the other. A reading of
- 119/79 or lower is normal blood pressure
- 140/90 or higher is high blood pressure
- Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is pre-hypertension.
- Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood and stick to the walls of your arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries or even block them.
- High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. You are likely to have high cholesterol if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you eat a lot of fatty foods.
The USPSTF strongly recommends that clinicians routinely screen men aged 35 years and older and women aged 45 years and older for lipid disorders and treat abnormal lipids in people who are at increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and more likely to break. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is common in older women. Studies have shown as many 2 in 4 women and 1 in 4 men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Risk factors include
- Getting older
- Being small and thin
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Taking certain medicines
- Being a white or Asian woman
- Having osteopenia, which is low bone density
Osteoporosis is a silent disease. You might not know you have it until you break a bone. A bone mineral density test is the best way to check your bone health. To keep bones strong, eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercise and do not smoke.
The USPSTF recommends that women aged 65 and older be screened routinely for osteoporosis. The USPSTF recommends that routine screening begin at age 60 for women at increased risk for osteoporotic.