Prevention is extremely important for staying healthy and recognizing diseases at an early stage. Regular participation in screening tests can help to identify a number of diseases and the time of their discovery may determine disease outcome.
For women, the most important screening tests are:
- breast screening,
- cervical screening,
- colon cancer screening,
- bone density test,
- skin cancer screening,
- laboratory tests,
- cardiovascular examination,
- lung cancer screening,
- eye examination.
It is recommended to monthly palpate your breasts and armpits over the age of 20 and it is also recommended to take part in gynecological screening once a year. To prevent breast cancer breast screening is recommended by X-ray and mammography after a certain age. Therefore, women aged 45–65 are invited for screening every 2 years as part of the nationally organized screening program.
Between the age of 20 and 45, palpation and ultrasound screening of the breasts are recommended.
The first gynecological examination is recommended for every healthy women after becoming sexually active. The gynecologist examines the genitals manually (by hand) and with an instrument and performs a vaginal ultrasound. Screening for cervical cancer (cytology) is recommended every year from the beginning of sexual activity or from the age of 18.
HPV typing for the detection of human papillomavirus is performed when the cytological finding describes abnormal cells that raise the suspicion of pre-cancerous condition.
See also: Cervical screening
Colorectal screening is usually recommended over the age of 45-50 in every two years. If you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, i.e. genetic predisposition is likely, it is definitely worth taking part in this screening from the age of 40. It is also recommended for anyone who has previously been diagnosed with colon polyps or colitis.
See also: Colorectal screening
The screening test is a two-step process: first, the fecal occult (hidden) blood content of the stool is analyzed in a laboratory. If the result is positive, the doctor will refer the patient to a gastroenterologist for colonoscopy. During the examination, the doctor inserts a thin fiber-optic device through the rectum into the colon, which can be used to examine the walls of the rectum and colon. The examination may also include CT colonoscopy, which consists of an abdominal and pelvic CT scan, or capsule endoscopy.
Bone density scan
Bone density test (bone densitometry, DEXA scan) is recommended if osteoporosis is suspected or if the doctor wants to see the effectiveness of your treatment. This screening is usually recommended every two years for those over 50 years of age when risk factors for osteoporosis are present (e.g. genetic predisposition, thin, tall figure, diabetes, liver or kidney disease and hyperthyroidism).
Screening is also recommended when you take medicines that can cause osteoporosis.
Skin cancer screening
Moles are recommended to be examined by a dermatologist once a year. In case you have a large number of moles, it is recommended to perform the examination every six months (dermoscopic screening). Self-examination is recommended on a monthly basis.
Melanoma is a very insidious type of skin cancer with a poor prognosis, however, if detected in time, there is a high chance of complete recovery. Immediate skin examination is required if there is a change in the color, size or shape of the mole.
It is especially important to emphasize the protection against the harmful UV rays of the sun with the use of SPF 50 sunscreen and to avoid sunburn.
It is recommended to have a routine blood test and a urine test once a year. Based on your results, your GP may give you a targeted referral for additional examination or prescribe medication if necessary.
The incidence of cardiovascular diseases significantly increases over the age of 40, so it is important to participate in screening and to explore heart disorders. Your doctor will perform a complex risk assessment and may recommend complex therapies based on your risk factors (obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, etc.) or symptoms (e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol), if necessary.
Lung screening is recommended annually over the age of 40 and every 3-5 years at a younger age, especially in smokers, to detect lung tumors. Unfortunately, the screening method is not suitable for detecting early lung cancer, so low-dose CT is recommended in high-risk situations.
Regular eye examinations and screening are recommended even if you have no symptoms, as screening may shed light on lesions that will only cause problems later (such as diabetes or high blood pressure). Screening consists of a visual acuity test, testing for color blindness and a slit-lamp examination.
Other recommended examinations for women over the age of 45:
- thyroid ultrasound,
- abdominal ultrasound,
- pelvic ultrasound,
- carotid ultrasound,
- tumor markers (especially if there is a family history of tumors).