Are you one of the many thousands of women for whom a well woman exam is only an annual Pap smear and a manual breast exam? Then read on...
Who can name the biggest killers of women?
#1 is Cardiovascular disease ASVD (heart attack and stroke) and hypertension.
#2 is Cancer.
#3 is Lung disease, obesity, diabetes and bone fractures.
A thorough Well Woman Exam should be able to reveal the pre-cursors to all of these. It should be an opportunity to ask any questions about issues which may be causing you concern, from fertility to cancer signs to inherited disorders. It should provide you with an annual report on your overall state of health, and not just give the “ok” to your breasts and reproductive organs. Identifying minor issues which may have the potential to develop into a serious illness is what a Well Woman Exam should do.
At LifeWorks, a Well Woman exam consists of a pap smear which is designed to detect premalignant and malignant cells in your cervix. Also included is a pelvic exam which checks the female organs and a manual breast exam which checks for lumps or abnormalities. We also include a Hemoccult test which looks for blood in the rectum and a body composition analysis which records percentages of: fat, muscle, bone, water, visceral fat, metabolic rate and physique rating.
Our Nurse Practitioner may then recommend additional tests which are not included in the Well Woman Exam. These tests are based on the patient’s general health, family history and lifestyle. These may include:
1. Detailed Health Screen - a blood test which provides the following data
Lipid Profile. A lipid profile measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, Lipoprotein a, and triglycerides.
Complete Metabolic Profile. This measures some of the most important markers of health and nutrition produced by your body. Blood levels reflecting function of the liver, kidneys, and salt balance are keys to tell us whether the function of these organs is good and whether your nutrition is optimum.
Fibrinogen Test. This evaluates an important protein in your blood that measures if you are prone to easy clotting. While fibrinogen levels are elevated, a person's risk of developing a blood clot may be increased and this may be the reason for premature heart attack or stroke.
Hemoglobin A1C and Fasting Insulin reflect the body’s ability to deal with dietary carbohydrates and sugars. If these levels are high a person is diabetic or pre-diabetic and at much greater risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Homocysteine Test. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. When levels are elevated one is at much greater risk of chronic disease, and especially cardiovascular disease and dementia. This condition can be corrected with the proper supplementation of certain B vitamins.
High Sensitivity CRP. This highlights any areas of inflammation. People with higher hs-CRP values have the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.
Thyroid Profile Test measures whether the thyroid is functioning at a normal level. People with low thyroid can have low energy, memory problems and elevated cholesterol.
Ferritin Test. Ferritin is a protein in your blood that stores iron for later use. A high ferritin is a clue to a severe inflammatory condition in the body and a low ferriitn reflects inadequate iron intake in the diet.
2. A Vitamin D blood test - Low levels of Vitamin D are responsible for health problems in millions of people each year. When the blood level is gotten up to normal bone health improves, blood pressure normalizes, and risk of cancer is much diminished. Nearly everyone we have tested is below normal levels.
3. Estronex test – this urine test measures how your body metabolizes and eliminates certain estrogens, and it plays an important role in determining risk levels for female cancers such as breast, uterine and cervical.
4. Bone Resorption Test - is a urine test that measures bone turnover and bone loss. This test can evaluate the current rate of bone loss and is an early sign of osteoporosis, bone diseases associated with arthritis, metabolic bone disease, and cancer, and the effectiveness of supplementation and other treatment methods.
5. Thermogram - should be ordered to check breast health. Thermography detects the subtle physiologic changes that accompany breast pathology, whether it is cancer, fibrocystic disease, an infection or a vascular disease. Thermography can detect early cancerous changes in the breast years before it is visible on a mammogram.
6. EKG – this should be performed on patients over 40 to highlight potential cardio-vascular problems. The EKG can provide important information about the patient's heart rhythm, a previous heart attack, increased thickness of heart muscle, signs of decreased oxygen delivery to the heart, and problems with conduction of the electrical current from one portion of the heart to another.
7. Colonoscopy – for patients over 50. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected (biopsy) and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum (polyps).
8. Hormone evaluation – via a saliva test which indicates the balance of estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA and testosterone. It is essential to maintain good hormone levels in order to protect bone mass, avoid cardiovascular disease and to generally feel good.
9. Dental evaluation referral, to make sure the gums and teeth are in good repair and there are no “silent” pockets of infection or dental toxicity.
10. Advice - on family planning, menopause issues, stopping smoking, excessive use of alcohol or drug abuse, diet and exercise.
Well Woman exams are a very important part of a healthy lifestyle strategy. The annual Well Woman exam is tailored for each person depending on her stage of life and her symptoms. We want to make sure that each of the delicate structures in the female body are working normally, and that no nutritional deficiency, infection or environmental toxicity is having an adverse effect. During the Well Woman exam our goal is to help you understand your body and its functions so that you can maintain it in an optimum condition. In this way it will serve you for many trouble-free years.
Many women in the Tampa Bay area have really benefited from the Well Woman exams offered at LifeWorks and you can too. Call 727-466-6789 for an appointment.
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*Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary based on a patient's medical history and other factors.