Importance of Preventive Health Care for Women

By Dr. Anuradha Kapur in Obstetrics And Gynaecology

Aug 27 , 2021 | 2 min read

The aim of preventive health care in women is to promote health and prevent diseases. It involves evaluation of individual health risk factors, use of appropriate screening tests, immunizations, and counseling regarding diet and exercise.

Most important screening tests for women are:

1) Screening for Cervical Cancer: Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer in women in India.

2) HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) serotypes 16 and 18: Account for nearly 76.7% of Cervical Cancer in India, it is a sexually transmitted infection.

Initiate screening with Thin Prep (better than conventional pap smear) at age 25 years. And every 5 years from 25 to 65 years by testing for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) alone or with thin prep plus HPV DNA test or thin prep every 3 years.

Routine screening can discontinue if:

  • You reach age 65 & 3 Pap results have been normal in the past 10 years & you are not in the high-risk group for Cervical Cancer (no history of cin2 or above in the past 25 years)
  • If you have had a hysterectomy for benign (non-cancer) reasons

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Increased number of childbirths
  • Not using condoms
  • Genetic factors
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptive use

Two vaccines are available in India – GARDASIL and Cervarix. The vaccinations can start as early as 9 years till the age of 26 years; ideally, it should be given before the first sexual intercourse.

Breast Cancer Screening - Breast cancer is the most common cancer in urban India and second-most in rural India*

For early detection - You should do the breast self-examination every month at the same time to detect any changes starting at the age of 20 years (changes may include lump, discharge, swelling, skin irritation, dimpling, nipple abnormalities i.e. pain, redness, scaliness, turning inward). Recommend screening with a 'baseline' mammogram at 40 years of age and regular 2 yearly mammograms should be done. Thereafter, one should begin regular screening at a younger age if known to carry an abnormal gene for breast cancer or have a family history or any other high risk factors.

3) Another screening test is Ultrasound whole abdomen conducted yearly.

4) You should report to your Gynaecologist about any abnormal Uterine Bleeding, i.e. any bleeding in an adult woman when period comes in less than 21 days or after 35 days or there is intermenstrual spotting or post-menopausal bleeding.

5) For osteoporosis it is recommended to start doing DEXA scan at age 60, can be conducted earlier if there are any High-risk factors for osteoporosis show.

6) It is recommended that Colon cancer screening should start in women above 50 years. If a woman has a family history of familial polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis, Colorectal Cancer or any other high-risk factor, start early screening.

7) Dental Check-ups can detect early signs of oral health problems and screen for -

  • Oral Cancer which is the third most common Cancer in India
  • Preventive measures include avoiding smoking, tobacco chewing, alcohol, HPV, sharp tooth

8) Besides the above screening tests, do routine Blood Test like Thyroid, Blood Sugar, HB, Lipid Profile as directed by your Doctor. Patient should take a healthy diet with a lot of green leafy vegetables and fruits daily. Calcium, vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acid supplements should be taken regularly. Do regular exercise of 150 minutes per week or as advised by your physician.