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Preventive Care
Women's Health

7 health screening tests every woman should do

23 June 2023 · 7 mins read


Learn more about the 7 health screening tests that every woman should go for.

Why is women’s health screening important?

Women's health screening is vital and essential because it can help detect potential health concerns specific to women.

By prioritising regular screening tests, women can proactively address potential health issues at an earlier stage because early intervention and effective management are enabled. Furthermore, women are also empowered to make well-informed decisions concerning their health and lifestyle.

Read this article to learn about common women’s health conditions.

1. Pap smear (pap test) for cervical cancer screening

Pap smear (or Pap test) is a screening test to detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix (the opening between the vagina and the uterus). It is considered a primary screening tool for cervical cancer.

Who should go for a pap smear (pap test)?

Screening for cervical cancer is an essential component of women's health care. You should begin screening at age 21, regardless of when you had your first sexual encounter.

How often and which tests you should undergo for cervical cancer screening depends on your age and medical history.

  • Women aged 21 to 29 should undergo Pap smear testing every three years.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 have three testing options:
    1. Undergo a Pap test and an HPV test (co-testing) every five years.
    2. Undergo a Pap test every three years.
    3. Undergo an HPV test alone once every five years.

What to expect during the procedure?

  1. The doctor will insert an instrument called the speculum into the vagina to widen it to view the cervix and upper portion of the vagina.
  2. The doctor will gently swab the lower part of the cervix to collect cell samples using a spatula (Ayre's spatula), whereas a brush (cytobrush) is used to obtain cells from the inner part of the cervix.
  3. The sample collected is placed in a liquid preservative and sent to the laboratory for examination.

Note: Everyone is different. Some may experience discomfort, and others may find the test to be painful. If you are experiencing discomfort or pain, inform your doctor so they can discuss some options to alleviate pain.

What does my pap smear result mean?

A Pap smear test result may be normal, abnormal, or unclear.

  1. Normal

    • Normal or negative results indicate no cell changes in your cervix. No further testing is required until your next scheduled test.
  2. Abnormal

    • Abnormal results indicate cell changes were detected in your cervix, although this does not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer.
    • Abnormal changes are most likely caused by HPV. The changes may be mild (low-grade) or severe (high-grade). Mild changes may return to normal on their own.
    • The more severe changes are often called "precancers" as they are not cancerous yet but have the potential to develop into cancer over time.
    • In uncommon circumstances, an abnormal Pap smear may indicate the presence of malignancy (cancer). There will be a need for additional examinations to confirm the diagnosis. The earlier cervical cancer is detected, the more treatable it is.
  3. Unclear

    • Rarely, the results may be unclear, and your doctor would advise you to repeat the test in 12 weeks.

2. Mammogram for breast cancer screening

The mammogram is an essential screening test designed to detect breast cancer at an early stage in women. It involves the use of x-rays, which employ high-energy radiation to generate detailed images of the internal structures of the breasts.

By utilising this imaging technique, mammograms serve as a valuable tool in identifying small breast lumps that may not be palpable through manual examination.

Who should go for mammography?

  • Regular mammography screening for women in the general population between the ages of 50 and 74 can be done every two years.
  • However, women who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer and have not been identified with any genetic variants can undergo mammography screening starting from 30-39 years of age and annually from 40-59 years of age.
  • After 60 years of age, mammography can be performed every two years.

What to expect during the mammogram procedure?

  1. You would have to remove your clothes and wear an open-front hospital gown or drape. Remove jewellery and avoid using products that may interfere with the imaging process.
  2. You position yourself near the X-ray machine. The radiographer positions one breast at a time between the machine's two flat plates.
  3. The plates press your breast firmly between them for a few moments. You will feel some pressure, and it may be unpleasant.
  4. Typically, two X-rays are taken of each breast: one from the top and one from the side.

Note: Tell your mammographer if you feel anxious or embarrassed or if the mammogram is too painful. At any time, they can stop and try to make you feel more comfortable.

3. Blood pressure test

A blood pressure test determines whether your blood pressure is normal, high, or low. High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when the blood pressure in the arteries builds up to levels greater than normal.

Blood pressure is typically tested using a blood pressure cuff and a device called a sphygmomanometer.

  1. During the test, you will usually be seated with your arm resting on a surface at about heart level.
  2. Your upper arm would then be wrapped with the blood pressure cuff and inflated, temporarily stopping the blood flow in your arm. This may be uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds. It is crucial to relax during this time and not talk.
  3. Your doctor would then slowly release the pressure in the cuff while listening to your pulse with a stethoscope and watching the gauge on the sphygmomanometer.

The test results are typically expressed as two numbers, with the systolic pressure listed first and the diastolic pressure listed second.

  • Normal blood pressure is generally considered to be less than 120/80 mmHg.
  • High blood pressure is defined as a reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher.

4. Blood tests

Blood tests are an essential part of modern medicine and have a wide range of uses. They can help diagnose and monitor a variety of medical conditions.

A blood test typically involves taking a blood sample from a vein in your arm. This is usually done by inserting a small needle into a vein in your inner elbow area. After the blood sample is taken, a cotton ball or gauze pad will be held over the puncture site to stop any bleeding. In most cases, the entire process lasts only a few minutes.

Some of the commonly performed blood tests include:

  1. Complete blood count (CBC)

    • Also known as full blood count, this test measures haemoglobin levels, white and red blood cell count, and platelet count.
    • CBC can help detect infections, anaemia, and other conditions.
  2. Blood glucose test

    • Measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Glucose is an essential source of energy for your body, but high levels of glucose in your blood can be a sign of diabetes or other health problems.
    • Fasting Blood Glucose Test: This test measures your blood glucose level after you have fasted for 8-12 hours. It can help diagnose diabetes or prediabetes.
    • Random Blood Glucose Test: This test measures your blood glucose level at any time of the day, regardless of when you last ate. It can help diagnose diabetes or monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes.
    • HbA1c Test: This is a three-month average blood glucose indicator which helps diagnose and monitor diabetes.
  3. Lipid profile (Cholesterol test)

    • This test measures the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), total cholesterol, triglycerides, and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which are important markers for your cardiovascular health.
  4. Liver function test

    • This test measures the levels of liver enzymes and proteins in the blood.
    • Common tests include Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT), Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST), Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), Total Bilirubin, Albumin, and Prothrombin Time (PT).
    • Liver function tests can help diagnose liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, and monitor liver function in people with these conditions.
  5. Renal function test

    • This test can help diagnose kidney diseases and monitor kidney function in people with known kidney conditions.
    • Common tests include creatinine, sodium, calcium, chloride, potassium, Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN).

5. Urinalysis (Urine analysis)

Urinalysis is a medical test that involves analysing a sample of urine. It is commonly used to screen for various medical conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, and liver problems.

Some of the parameters that are typically evaluated in a urine analysis test include the following:

  • Colour and clarity
  • pH level
  • Specific gravity
  • Protein levels
  • Glucose levels
  • Ketone levels
  • Nitrite levels
  • Leukocyte levels
  • Bilirubin levels
  • Urobilinogen levels
  • Red and white blood cell counts
  • Bacteria or other microorganisms

6. Colorectal (colon) cancer screening

Colorectal cancer screening involves tests that can detect early signs of colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon or rectum.

Early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. Depending on their risk for developing colorectal cancer, adults should get a colorectal cancer screening at age 45 or earlier.

  • Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening, as it allows for both the detection and removal of abnormal growths. It enables your doctor to see the lining of the entire colon, including the rectum. A flexible, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum and colon to look for abnormal growths or polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: Enables your doctor to see the lower part of the colon (descending colon) and lining of the entire rectum. A short tube is inserted into the rectum to observe for polyps or cancerous masses in the rectum and lower part of the colon.
  • Faecal Occult Blood Test: This test checks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer. Samples of stool are collected at home and sent to a lab for analysis.
  • Computed tomography (CT) colonography: Also known as virtual colonoscopy. This is a non-invasive imaging test that uses a CT scan to create images of the colon that can be examined for abnormal growths or polyps.

7. Bone density test for osteoporosis screening

The most commonly used method to measure bone density is a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, also known as a bone density scan. It uses low-intensity X-ray beams to measure calcium and other minerals in one's bones.

Who should go for a bone density test?

  • Individuals over 65 years old are advised to undergo this test once every two years.
  • For females over 65 years old with no risk of accelerated bone loss, it can be performed every 3 to 5 years.

What to expect during the bone density test procedure?

  1. A bone density scan is a simple and painless procedure where you will be required to lie on your back on an X-ray table for an area of your body to be scanned.
  2. Depending on the area being scanned, you may be permitted to keep your clothes on. However, you will need to remove anything with a metal clasp, snap, or button. A gown may be required depending on the circumstance.
  3. The scan involves a large scanning arm passed over your body to evaluate bone density.
  4. During the procedure, a narrow beam of low-dose X-rays will be passed through the part of the body that is being scanned.
  5. Typically, the duration of the scan is between 10 and 20 minutes. After completion, you will be able to return home.

What does my bone density result mean?

  • The results are often expressed as Z-score and T-score. Among these two, the T-score is typically the more significant. T-scores are usually negative or in the minus range.
  • The lower the T-score for bone density, the higher the risk of fracture. The T-score of individuals with normal bone density is between +1 and -1.

Make an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

At Pantai Hospitals, we offer a wide range of health screening programs catered to each individual, depending on their health status and needs. The team of healthcare professionals are here to assist and recommend or tailor a screening package to suit your age, gender, family, and medical history.

For appointments, please contact the Health Screening Centre at your nearest Pantai Hospital.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.  

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