One of the most important assets a woman has is her health, and by safeguarding her wellbeing, she can continue to make a contribution to her work, her family and herself for many years to come.
For women, sometimes staying healthy isn’t just about responding to illness, it’s about engaging in preventative procedures to ensure that disease doesn’t gain a foothold. Because of this, it’s vital for women to have regular medical check-ups that include the procedures outlined below.
A Pap smear is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. A scraping tool is used to gather cells from the opening of the uterus, which are then examined under a microscope for any abnormalities. The process may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. Women over 18 should have a Pap smear every year. Profmed covers traditional Pap smears as well as the new liquid-based cytology test, paid at the same rate as the traditional test.
Breast cancer is the most common form of non-skin cancer among women. Mammography uses low-dose X-rays to examine human breast tissue to detect any masses that may indicate breast cancer. Although it is distressing for any woman to be called back for further investigation after a mammogram, it is possible for the lumps to be benign or easily treatable in the early stages if they are malignant. The earlier the detection, the greater the chances of a full recovery, so women over 40 are encouraged to go for annual mammograms. Women with a genetic pre-disposition to breast cancer should start sooner.
Testing for late onset diabetes
Diabetes is known as the silent killer, because symptoms may not show for many years and by the time they appear, significant complications – like cardiovascular disease – may already have occurred. Although the disease is mostly genetic, lifestyle factors like excess weight, inactivity, high blood pressure and poor diet can hasten its development and severity. Because of this, it is a good idea for women over 40 to get tested for diabetes early, so that lifestyle factors can be adjusted before too much damage is done.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body needs for its normal functioning. However, high cholesterol is a risk factor for other illnesses like coronary heart disease, angina, stroke and peripheral artery disease, so it is very important that it is checked regularly. Lifestyle factors like weight and diet can affect cholesterol levels, so if tests are carried out regularly, it is possible to make adjustments to prevent further problems from occurring. This simple blood test should be carried out yearly by women over 50.
The influenza vaccine
You may think to yourself “it’s just the flu”, but in recent years, the media has increasingly been highlighting the very real risks that come with a bout of influenza – which kills between 200 000 and 500 000 people every year. Aside from the fact that you’ll feel terrible for about a week, there is the possibility of developing pneumonia or other complications. All of this contributes to it making sense for everyone to get a flu vaccine once a year. Profmed covers the cost of the vaccination, but not a doctor’s consultation as the injection can be given for free in pharmacies.
Although this may seem like a battery of tests for women to have to undergo, many of them form part of the annual check-ups that you should be having with your gynaecologist or GP anyway. And it’s important to remember that no matter how time-consuming it may be to take good care of your health, prevention is always better than cure.
The good news is that any good medical aid should support preventative medicine by structuring its benefits to encourage members to carry out these tests. The costs of all of these procedures, do not get paid from Profmed’s member’s benefit, but the scheme covers the cost.
Visit www.profmed.co.za or call 0800 334 733.
(Beverly Carrozzo, Profmed Scheme Manager, August 2010)