5 important medical tests for women
Spot the signs on time
A healthy body is a work in progress, particularly as we climb the ladder to older age. To ease this ascent, making it less of a daunting uphill battle and more of joyous fait accompli, here's our guide to five important medical examinations for Irish women of almost any age.
Cervical cancer is the second most common female cancer in Europe. According to the Irish Cancer Society, an average of 200 women are diagnosed with it each year.
The cervical test is carried out free of charge through a GP in your region who is affiliated with Cervical Check, the national government-run cervical screening programme.
The cervical smear test picks up changes in the cells of the cervix - neck of the womb. It can identify cell changes before they become cancer.
The free tests are provided to women aged 25 to 60 years. It is offered every three years for women under 44 years, and every three to five years for women aged 45 and over. Register for your test at freephone 1800 45 45 55.
Coeliac blood test
Ireland has one of the highest global rates of coeliac condition in the world. Many cases go undiagnosed, according to the Coeliac Society of Ireland. This examination is available through all GPs.
The blood test will screen for antibodies TGA and EMA. Positive results will be followed with a biopsy where a small tube is passed through the mouth into the intestine to get a sample of intestine wall tissue.
Your GP can carry out the blood test at any time.
Heart disease and stroke is the main cause of death for women in Ireland, according to the Irish Heart Foundation. Your cholesterol can be measured with a blood test at any GP.
It is advisable to visit your family doctor who is familiar with your personal history.
The blood test can be taken on any visit to your doctor.
One in three women over the age of 50 will be affected by osteoporosis, according to the Irish Osteoporosis Society. The DEXA scan measures bone density with dual energy x-ray to diagnose osteoporosis.
The x-ray scan provides a direct measurement of bone density. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes and can be carried out in hospitals or at private clinics.
People in their 30s should consider having a scan, for comparison in later years, because our bone density peaks in our mid-30s and then continues to weaken as we age. Early identification of changes can halt the progress of osteoporosis.
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer was the most common cancer in women from 1994 to 2001, according to the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). This test is available at GPs nationwide, or with the free national BreastCheck screening programme for women over 50. For a self-examination guide, see Eurohealth.ie.
An x-ray will be taken at a hospital or mobile unit. The x-ray may be uncomfortable, but it will be over in a matter of seconds.
Self-examinations are advised at regular intervals, usually every month. Any changes in breasts can be followed with a mammogram, which is provided free every two years for women over 50. Register at freephone 1800 30 90 40.