6 health checks every woman should do

Do you do any of these checks regularly?

As women, it is important to look after our bodies. No matter how busy we might be, keeping things in check should be something we do at least once a month. If you can recognise symptoms or changes in your body, that can be an early detection that something is wrong and you’ll be able to treat the problem more quickly and efficiently.

Below we’ve listed six health checks that every woman should do. Whether it is checking your breasts for lumps or examining your gums for inflammation, it is so important that you look after you! With this in mind, it is good to know what to look out for so you can not only help yourself but you can also raise awareness and educate family and friends on what they should do too!

Breasts

No matter what age you are, it is vital that you do regular checks on your breasts to feel if there are any lumps or abnormalities. It is normal to do these checks as they can often be the first early detector of breast cancer. Mammograms are an X-ray of your breasts and can detect any signs of breast cancer. BreastCheck is a government-funded programme that provides free mammograms to eligible women on an area by area basis every two years. As of January 2018, all eligible woman aged between 50 and 69 will be invited for routine screening.

The Irish Cancer Society gives these tips on how to recognise changes in your breasts:

•A change in size or shape – it may be that one breast has become larger.

•Changes in the nipple – in direction or shape, pulled in or flattened nipple.

•Changes on or around the nipple – rash, flaky or crusted skin.

•Changes in the skin – dimpling, puckering or redness.

•'Orange peel’ appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores.

•Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.

•A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast.

•Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.

Teeth

Often, as you get older, there are so many other health issues to think about that our teeth take a back seat unless they are actually causing pain or discomfort. However, teeth are one of our most used body parts so it is important to take care of them in order to prevent any future dental problems. Make sure to regularly examine gums for signs of inflammation, redness around the teeth, bleeding when brushing or flossing, loose teeth, bad breath or receding gums. There are many factors that contribute to gum disease such as smoking, not visiting a dentist regularly and brushing your teeth less than twice a day. However, every individual is different and if you have any concerns about your teeth you should book an appointment with your local dentist.

Moles

The skin is the largest organ in the human body and so it is vital that it is protected and looked after. Luckily, because we can see most areas of skin, it is easy to detect when there is a change to the appearance of a particular area. Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. Most moles are benign but it is important to make sure that there is no changes to the appearance of the mole.

Boots Ireland offer a Mole Scanning Service in store and while the service doesn’t provide a skin cancer diagnosis, the Screen Cancer Dermatology Specialists can help recognise any suspicious moles that may require further examination. When checking your moles, Boots advise people to look out for changes in the five main areas and this is known as the ABCDE rule.

Asymmetry - Irregular shape – the two halves should be symmetrical

Borders - Unclear, irregular or ragged boundaries against normal skin

Colour - Changes in colour – especially black, blue or uneven colours

Diameter - More than 5-6mm in diameter and changes in size

Evolving - Changes in shape, size and colour, itching or bleeding of existing moles, or a new mole

Cervical

A smear test is a simple procedure that only takes minutes and is the most effective way to detect changes in the cells of the cervix. No screening test is 100% accurate but the earlier abnormal cell changes are found, the easier they are to treat and early detection can prevent cervical cancer. However it is important to note that if the results show abnormal cells, it doesn't mean you have cancer. The abnormality could be due to other problems such as an infection and will just require you to maybe have another smear test or might require a further examination and testing of the cervix.

CervicalCheck is a national cervical screening programme that provides free smear tests to women aged 25 to 60. A smear test can also be carried out by your GP or a nurse at the surgery so it is useful to contact your GP for more information about booking an appointment. To check if you're on the register for cervical screeening, or if you have any questions, call CervicalCheck on 1800 45 45 55.

Eyes

Regular eye checks are important because eyes are not usually a place that cause much pain so it is often hard to realise there is a problem. Eye tests not only determine the quality of your vision but they also test for eye conditions such as glaucoma or retinal detachment. Visit your local optician for an eye test or for more information.

Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STI/STD)

STIs are infections passed from one person to another during skin to skin or intimate sexual contact. Often there is no major sign that you have a STI/STD unless you have discharges, sores or rashes. Most of the time, STI tests are provided as a walk-in service therefore you don’t need to make an appointment. STI's/STD's checks include testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, genital warts, HIV (including PEP) and many more.

Spunout.ie provide a list of free STI clinics in Ireland.

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