5 common screening tests that every woman needs
As life gets busy, self-care can often come at the bottom of the list. Careers and family commitments can take attention away from changes happening to your body. It can be easy to miss signs and symptom, put off going to the GP or simply be unaware of a health issue.
This is why screening tests are important. The UK has a national screening programme, which uses data collected from over the years to be able to detect changes in your body. This increases your chances of early diagnosis or give you peace of mind.
As Dr Jessica Baron, Hormone Health Associate, explains: “screening tests are as much a part of keeping ourselves healthy as diet and exercise. They are designed to alert us if anything is out of the ordinary so we can make an effective plan. These tests let you know what is happening in your body so you can make informed lifestyle decisions.”
There is a wealth of information that can be taken from your blood sample. It can be used to measure your hormone levels, check you have the right vitamins and minerals in your body, and support specific diagnosis.
Ovarian screening uses a particular blood test called the CA125 test. CA125 is the snappy name given to the chemical released by cancer cells in the ovaries. This is known as a tumour marker and can be measured with a simple blood test.
All women will have CA125 in their bloodstream but if there is a higher than usual level, then it may be a sign of cancer.
Levels of CA125 can be high for many reasons including endometriosis, menstruation, cysts or that is naturally higher. This is why it is important to combine the blood test with a pelvic ultrasound.
Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create an image of inside your body. It is very much like how bats use sound waves to see in the dark. Women will usually have a pelvic ultrasound to check your ovaries and womb for fibroids, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovaries, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
It is also used in conjunction with the CA125 blood test as part of ovarian screening.
DEXA is an abbreviation for ‘Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry’, but may also be called a DXA scan or a bone density scan.
As women age, their bone density can decrease. Menopause can put you at higher risk of osteoporosis, as can family history, early hysterectomy and smoking. The DEXA scan is an x-ray that measures the bone mineral density.
The traditional PAP test which detects pre cancer and cancer cells, has recently been replaced by the HPV test as the first line investigation. The NHS runs an efficient screening service for women aged 25 – 64, so that should be your first port of call.
Women usually have this test once every three years from the age of 25 and screening continues until women are 64 years old.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Usually, the HPV test is taken at the same time as the cervical test. HPV is a virus that can cause the cells of the cervix to change. It is now conducted as a first line alternative to the PAP test and may also be tested for sexual health reasons.
At Hormone Health, we can conduct all the screening tests that have been described. As well as each individual test, we also offer more cost-effective packages. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch for further information and an appointment with one of our healthcare professionals.