Testing times

May 15, 2010

Courtesy by: bangaloremirror.com

When Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with breast cancer recently, her first reaction was — ‘Why me?’ She was, after all, “a lifelong athlete, strong, healthy, and had eaten nutritionally all her life”, which made accepting the situation that much harder. But Martina was lucky that her cancer was caught early. Yet, the tennis great admitted she’s partly to blame because she went four years without a mammogram check-up. “Another year and I could have been in trouble,” she reportedly said.

Despite your best efforts, you may not be always able prevent diseases, but you can ensure speedy recovery by diagnosing them early. So even if you are the superwoman — trying to juggle between varied responsibilities — spare some time for yourself and get a few tests done.

In your 20s and 30s

What: A tried and tested way to test cervical cancer (caused by Human Papilloma Virus — HPV). Pap smear is a swab of cells taken from your cervix that is tested for any abnormalities.
When: Ideally, from the time you get sexually active. If you’ve had several normal Paps in a row and a negative HPV test, get tested every other year. Else, if you have multiple sexual partners, are a smoker or have any other disease, get tested every year.

A precursor to HPV test is the cervical cancer vaccine which is being recommended for girls from 12 onwards. This greatly reduces the risk of cervical cancer.
FACTOID: India reports approximately one fourth of the world’s cases of cervical cancer each year.

Pre-pregnancy tests
What: Tests to ensure good health of your baby. Tests for thalassemia and German measles (Rubella) top the list. Thalassemia is generally passed on from parents to children, hence it’s best to get tested beforehand. It is a simple blood test that picks up the levels of haemoglobin. People who have thalassemia have problems with the alpha or beta globin protein chains of haemoglobin. Similarly a rubella test detects anti-bodies to the rubella virus in a sample of blood. If exposed to rubella, you could get afflicted and transmit it to the baby.
When: Pre-pregnancy or immediately after marriage.
FACTOID: Reportedly, one out of every 25 Indians is a carrier of thalassemia.

What: With increasing cases of fibroids, endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a sonography must feature in your regular test-list. Often these diseases are asymptomatic and a routine sonography can detect a number of irregularities. A pelvic sonography also gives a clearer picture of two cancers — of the uterus and that of the ovary.
When: Once in your mid-20s. If the results are clear, you can defer it for three years. But after 40, do it every year because the risk factors shoot up.
FACTOID: It is estimated that the incidence of endometriosis is about 5 – 20 per cent.

Other tests
What: Tests for lipid profile, cholesterol and diabetes. With increasing incidents of heart problems among women too, go for regular testing of cholesterol levels and lipid profile. Ditto for diabetes, especially if you are detected with high cholesterol. And if you are slightly overweight, a thyroid test is a must.
When: Begin these in your mid-30s. 40s and beyond

What: Regardless of whether you feel a lump in your breast or not, a mammography and a sonography should be done every year after 40.

CA 125 test
What: A blood test that is also a tumor-marker, designed to detect ovarian tumours. Include this aspect too with your sonography.
FACTOID: In India, one in 22 women is likely to suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime.

Bone density test
What: A test to find out whether you’re at risk for osteoporosis.
When: Any stage but especially at the menopausal or the perimenopausal phase. It determines the density, thickness and strength of the bones as an osteoporosis-afflicted patient is extremely prone to fracture. If detected early, specific treatments are available.
FACTOID: An estimated 300 million plus people in India suffer from osteoporosis.

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