To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked Dr Nav Uppal from IMC Jelita to give 5 Top Tips on how women can protect their health.
1. Have a regular pap smear
In Singapore, there are approximately 190 new cases of cervical cancer a year. On average, 70 women die from cervical cancer yearly. A pap smear is a simple procedure in which cells are removed from the lower end of the womb (cervix). Pap smears are an easy way to detect early changes in the cells of the cervix. Over several years these changes may develop into cancer. If these changes are found and treated early, most cancers can be prevented. Having regular pap smears have been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing cervical cancer. Regular pap smears every 1 to 3 years are recommended at 21 years of age and continuing until 65 years of age.
At IMC we can also test for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). HPV is a common virus affecting both men and women. HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer. HPV is very common in women under 30 and, in most cases, clears up by itself. However, in women with persistent types of infection where the virus survives for years, HPV can cause pre-cancerous conditions in the cervix that may lead to invasive cervical cancer. A pap test alone cannot identify HPV. The HPV test performed can detect any of the 13 types of HPV known to cause cervical cancer.
2. Keep up to date with your mammogram
In Singapore breast cancer is the number 1 most common cancer in women. Besides the recommended monthly breast self examination, the best way to protect yourself from breast cancer is to go for regular screenings. A mammogram can detect tiny lumps that cannot be felt by the hand. Early detection, followed by treatment of the condition can result in better outcomes and lowers the risk of serious complications. Women aged 40-49 should have an annual mammogram and over 50s should have screening every 2 years.
3. Keep your vaccinations up to date
As well as routine vaccines you may need (like a Tetanus booster every 10 years or an annual flu shot), living in the tropics and going on frequent short breaks around Asia may mean you are exposed to other vaccine preventable diseases. Book a consultation with your doctor at least 6 weeks before your trip so your doctor can discuss up to date advice about vaccines needed for that region as well as food and water hygiene, mosquito repellants and preventative prescription medications such as those for travellers diarrhea.
4. Exercise and diet
Following a healthy diet and keeping your weight stable will put you at less risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease as well as some cancers. Carrying extra pounds, especially around the abdomen, strains the heart and tips you towards diabetes. If you are overweight losing just 5-10% of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar.
- It is important you keep hydrated and exercise regularly
- It is sometimes hard to find the time but it is important to try and fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Although any amount of exercise is better then none!
- Enliven your diet – add fruit and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, good proteins-(from beans, nuts, lentils, fish and poultry, and herbs and spices)
- Avoid processed foods, salt, rapidly digested carbs from white bread, white rice and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Finally avoid tobacco and drink alcohol in moderation
5. Get a yearly health check!
Health screenings are replacing a ‘one size fits all’ yearly physical. Instead of every person getting the same exams and tests, it is important to discuss your individual needs with your Doctor. A discussion about your health history, family history and a thorough physical examination should prompt appropriate investigations and screenings, tailor-made to your specific needs and risk factors. Personalised health screenings mean you do not pay for tests you simply don’t need. At your appointment you can ask your Doctor about checking your cholesterol and glucose as well as other cancer screenings.