Woman, Get a Checkup

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Jose S. Pujalte Jr.

aA woman's health is her capital.a

- Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)

US author (and mother of six)

Household Papers and Stories, part 2, ch. 5 (1865)

THE recent devastating news of President Cory Aquino's colon cancer reminds us of that health indeed is wealth. Still, we'd like to think that more can be done about the prevention of sickness rather than spending on treatment or cure. Not many are inclined to see a doctor until something is wrong.

But first some good news: The National Statistical Coordinating Board reports that Filipino women now have an average life expectancy of 72.8 years. Filipino men, truly the weaker sex, live much shorter on the average at 67.5 years.

What's the bad news? There isn't much to glean from as regards quality of life. That is to say, we have no idea if the woman at 73 years has no heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, or cancer, or Alzheimer's.

Indeed what is the use, some may ask, of living long but living in agony?

It doesn't have to be that way. More and more the onus of healthy aging is being shifted to the individual. It's convenient to blame one's genes, the environment, even the government for disease. But to take charge of one's health is probably more satisfying and well, healthier. A woman can take charge of her health by following these 10 steps.

A health check list. These must be checked (or requested) by your doctor and dentist. The appropriate health professional to see is in parenthesis:

Blood pressure reading (family medicine doctor/cardiologist); Cholesterol level (family medicine doctor/cardiologist); Breast exam and mammogram (general surgeon/oncologist); Pelvic exam and pap smear (OB/gyne); Colon and rectal cancer screening (colorectal surgeon).

Bone density measurement (endocrinologist/orthopedic surgeon/; rheumatologist/rehabilitation Medicine specialist); Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) screening (OB/gyne /urologist); Eye exam (ophthalmologist); Fasting blood sugar test (Family medicine doctor/endocrinologist); and Dental checkup (dentist).

Why bother? There's a practical reason to all these. Disease prevention is less costly than treatment or cure. For example, cancer treatment is expensive, painful and results are directly correlated to the stage or extent of the cancer. In a clinical breast exam, the doctor will look for unusual lumps and enlargements of the lymph nodes. After the age of 40, the doctor recommends a mammogram which is an X-ray of breast tissue. Abnormal calcifications and lumps not detectable by touching alone can be seen through this special X-ray. A pelvic exam and Pap smear, on the other hand, can be done much sooner (after a woman has become sexually active). …