Last weekend, I met a fascinating 40 year old Nigerian woman at a book club. She was truly a superwoman. She was a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend, and she is very well known in our community. Not only is she well known and respected, but she is also very educated. She graduated magna cum laude, and she is also a trained pianist. As we talked, I began to realize that this wonderful sister has been so busy taking care of others, and focusing on her career, that she forgot to take care of herself. She has not seen her Gynecologist for an examination in over 6 years, and she had never had a mammogram. I also noticed that she was clinically considered obese, and as a result of the extra weight, she had sleep apnea. She was a ticking time bomb health wise.
A Cervical Cancer Screening Is Critical
Technological advancements have changed the way that cancer screening, diagnoses, and resolutions are handled for women. There really is no reason why women should be dying from cervical cancer. The reason for a yearly Pap smear is to recognize abnormalities early, and treat them before they progress to cancer. It usually takes an abnormal cell in the cervix 4 to 5 years before it becomes cancerous. My new friend has seriously done herself a disservice by waiting so long to make an appointment with her doctor. Those are 5 years that cannot be recovered, and she placed herself in danger of developing advanced stages of cancer that could result in significant consequences.
Every woman over the age of 18 is encouraged to have an annual gynecological exam. If a woman has never had an abnormal result, she can request testing every few years.
Breast Cancer Can Be Treated Early With Mammograms
If you have ever had x-rays done during a dental visit, you will know what to expect during a mammogram. It is a simple process that takes about 5 minutes to complete. These tests have been known to recognize breast cancer before a woman even felt a lump. Monthly breast exams are no longer recommended as the only examination that a woman should receive. Between the ages of 35 and 40, a woman should have at least one mammogram. After the age of 40, there should a yearly exam. If you have someone in your family that had breast cancer, your baseline screening should begin earlier than at the age of 35. Even though Caucasian women have a higher percentage of developing breast cancer, women of color have a higher percentage of dying from it.
Other Health Issues
Nigerian women, and other women of color, should get screened for other health issues like diabetes, thyroid problems, depression, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. A simple test can let your healthcare provider know about issues early so you can be treated properly, and have a healthy prognosis.
There are simple things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing certain health problems. Stop smoking, and eliminate alcohol from your diet. Try to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise.