Women's health

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Women’s health: Eight areas on your wellness to-do list

Take charge of your health and wellness with these eight check points when it comes to female medical issues.

Women's health

Image: Canva

Take charge of your health and wellness with these eight check points when it comes to female medical issues.

Even though National Women’s Month is drawing to a close, women still should make their health and wellness a priority.

There are many aspects of health to consider particularly as common health conditions can affect women differently than men.

As you get older, it is also a good idea to see your medical provider for regular check-ups.

Here are eight areas to look at to understand women’s general health related needs.

1. DIY breast exam


Breast exams are important as changes in breast tissue can signal breast cancer, and early diagnosis of breast cancer can save your life.

Although you can go for a mammogram or breast exam with a medical professional, you also can examine them yourself.

You know your body better than anybody else so you are best placed to notice any changes.

If you notice any changes in your breasts that seem abnormal, it is important to report it to your doctor. These include:

  • Change in size, shape, and texture;
  • Lump or area that feels thicker;
  • Any discharge;
  • Pain in your breast or armpit;
  • Swelling in armpit or collarbone.

The Cancer Association of South Africa says of the approximately 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older in this country, breast cancer is the cancer which most affects them. (Men can also get breast cancer, however.)

2. Pap smear

While cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among South African women, the good news is that it is curable if detected and treated in the early stages.

One of the ways to pick this up is via a pap smear.

According to the South African HPV Advisory Board, woman should begin having pap smears when they become sexually active or, alternatively, when they turn 21.

3. Dental check-up

Dental health is important from the moment you sprout your first tooth as a baby.

Dentists recommend dental check-ups twice a year to spot early signs of decay and any other problems.

A regular dental check-up will include cleaning and examining teeth.

4. Body mass index


Your body mass index or BMI is an estimation of your body fat, with a figure between.

A normal or healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. More than this is overweight and less is underweight.

An extremely high BMI, of 30 and above means you are obese. This raises your risk of serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

You can measure your BMI by typior by going to your local medical practitioner. You can also calculate it by taking your mass in kilograms and dividing by the square of your height in metres.

5. Cholesterol check

You cholesterol level helps in assessing your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

To check your cholesterol levels your doctor can perform a blood test. Ideally, get your blood test in the morning before eating, or after not having eaten anything for 12 hours.

If you are age 20and older, you should check cholesterol at least once every five years.

6. Skin examination

You can examine your skin at home every month. As with a breast exam, the idea is to look for changes that could be an early signal of disease, in this case skin cancer.

People with fair or pale skin are at particular risk of skin cancer in South Africa if they are in the sun a lot and have not taken adequate sun-protection steps.

Carefully inspect your skin and look for any new moles or changes in texture, which can be early signs of skin cancer.

If you encounter any changes, or are unsure, contact your doctor or dermatologist about how often you should have an in-office exam.

7. Blood pressure screening

High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is one of the more serious risks factors for heart disease around the world.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure. This is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks.

After the age of 20, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years.

8. Sexually transmitted infections screening


If you are not sexually active, it is unlikely you need to worry about sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs, STDs).

You can have a sexually transmitted disease without knowing it. If you are sexually active, it is important to include testing for STDs as part of your routine health care.

In many cases, you can have an infection without symptoms of the disease.

However, many STDs are curable, which means the sooner you are tested the sooner you can receive appropriate treatment.