A women's health checkup can include a variety of different tests, and it can be customized for the unique health concerns of the individual woman. Tests like Pap smears and bone density testing are common during a women's wellness checkup. A pelvic exam and clinical breast examination may also be performed during this appointment.
A Pap smear is a test that screens for cervical cancer. The test looks for cancerous and precancerous cells in the cervix area. The test is a simple one that requires a gentle scraping of the cervix area to gather the tissue needed for examination. The goal of a Pap smear is to identify the signs of cancer before it ever develops, or at least in its earliest stage. The Pap smear test can sometimes detect precancerous changes in the cervix long before cancer develops, possibly even years in advance. It is the best "early warning system" possible for cervical cancer that is available.
Bone density testing, also called a DEXA or DXA scan, is a test that measures the level of minerals in the bones. The bones being evaluated in a bone density test include the back, the hips, and occasionally the forearms. The test requires patients to simply relax on a padded examination table while the scanner moves around measuring bone density. If bone loss is revealed during the test, the doctor can often help the patient to make the lifestyle changes needed to preserve and strengthen the bones.
Women over the age of 65 should have bone density testing done on a regular basis. Because women are more susceptible to bone loss than men are, men often don't have bone density tests until they are 70.
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