You might feel fit and well and rarely see your doctor, but some check ups can really improve your health outlook.
Getting a cervical screening test can save your life! In December 2017, cervical screening tests replaced the pap smear test, as a more accurate way of protecting women against cervical cancer. Every woman aged 25 to 74 should get them done every 5 years. (You will need your first cervical screening test 2 years after your last Pap test.)
Other tests are age-recommended by the government, or should be prompted by your GP, if you have a family history for example.
Here’s what else you need to know about.
In your 30s
Dental check up
“There’s good evidence that people who have regular dental check-ups live longer,” says Dr Mansberg. A regular clean and scale from your dentist prevents early detection of periodontal [gum] disease, which often happens from not cleaning properly. “Even you’re quite diligent about brushing, many of us are not that good at it!”
If you’re thinking about having a family, or have had a couple of different partners and have had unprotected sex, it’s wise to get screened for any sexually transmitted infections. “STIs don’t always have obvious symptoms, and silent infections can cause inflammation, block fallopian tubes and can cause infertility,” says GP Dr Brad McKay. Early treatment will get you better results.
In your 40s
Glaucoma eye test
“I recommend everyone in their forties gets an eye test with their optometrist for glaucoma. It’s a silent cause of blindness and you won’t know you have it unless you get checked,” says Dr Mansberg. While glaucoma is more common in older people, early treatment can slow down the damage process.
General health check up
The federal government provides a bulk billed health check for all Australians aged 45–49 called the 45-Year-Old-Health-Check Program. “I’ll ask women about their health, high blood pressure, diabetes and check for iron deficiency, which is really common in your 40s,” says Dr Mansberg.
In your 50s+
Though you’re entitled to free breast screenings from age 40, “It’s more common in women over 50, when it’s recommended to start having them every two years,” says Dr McKay. One in eight women will get breast cancer, but the most common types have a very good long-term prognosis, especially if the cancer is found early. “Mammograms are special x-rays that use very little radiation. It’s a little uncomfortable, but once you’re in the right position, it only takes seconds.”
Bowel cancer screening
When you hit your fifth decade, you’ll start getting sent an at-home faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit from the government. The test involves taking samples from two or three bowel motions, which are then sent to a lab to be analysed. “Even if cancer is found early treatment gives the best chance of long term survival,” says Dr McKay. “Unfortunately, millions of kits are put on the shelf or thrown in the bin. Please use them!”
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