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Check me out—the health checks you should be getting (and when)

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Ever catch yourself looking at the calendar, struggling to remember your last health check-up?

We all know the last few years have been hard, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are several important health checks you need to keep front of mind, no matter where you are in life.

This Women’s Health Week (5-11 September), Women’s Health Matters shares all the health checks you may be late with (or may just need a cheeky reminder about).

All Ages

Skin checks

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world. Anyone can develop skin cancer and it is important to perform regular self-checks using the ABCDE method, and to see your GP if you notice any changes.

Breast checks

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Australia and it is important for women of all ages to be aware of their breasts. Performing self-checks every month, getting to know the normal look and feel of your breasts and if you think something might be wrong, visiting your GP.

It is recommended from 50-74 to get mammograms every two years, however you can receive a free mammogram from 40-years onwards if you are at higher risk.

Cervical Screening

The cervical screening test now replaces the Pap smear and is necessary if you have ever been sexually active and are over the age of 25. Have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test, and then every five years until you are 74.  In some situations, based on your Cervical Screening results your GP may recommend more frequent screenings and follow-up.

Some may find the test invasive so you can also choose to have a cervical screening test by self-collection under supervision of a nurse or doctor.

Blood pressure checks

From the age of 18, you should get your blood pressure checked every one to two years and more frequently if you are at increased risk of cardiovascular or heart disease. You can visit your GP or pharmacy to access a blood pressure monitor.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Screening

If you are sexually active, it is important to speak with a health professional about how often to screen for STIs. There are several places in the ACT where you can access these services for sexual health checks. Check out Women’s Health Matters page on STIs.

Mental health and wellbeing check

Whatever your age, it is important to look after your mental health and wellbeing. If you are experiencing symptoms such as intense sadness, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or have had changes to your eating or sleeping habits, see your GP to discuss these symptoms as early as you can. Remember to book a longer appointment with your GP to talk about your mental health and wellbeing.

Pre-pregnancy care

It is important to check in with your GP if you are planning to become pregnant or may want to consider it in the future.  They can help you to check your egg stores and can discuss options relating to fertility and pregnancy planning. Once you are pregnant, having regular checks with your pharmacist, GP and obstetrician to monitor you and your baby’s health and development is vital. Having a Baby in Canberra can help you navigate all stages of your pregnancy.

Age 45+

Cholesterol check

From the age 45 it is important to have a cholesterol check. You may need to get this test earlier or more frequently depending on family history and risk factors of cardiovascular or heart disease. Speak to your GP if you are unsure.

Heart health check

You should have a heart health check with your GP at least every two years from age 45. These health checks can detect issues with your heart health and about one fifth of people between 45-74 years old have a high chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

Keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease.

Women don’t always feel pain in the centre of their chest when having a heart attack and can find it harder to recognise a heart attack, so it is important to know how symptoms may be different for women.

Bowel screening test

Bowel cancer screening tests are available for free from age 50-74 and is done by you in your home with an easy-to-use faecal occult blood test. Bowel cancer is the most common cancer in Australia and if detected early is treatable. Have a look at the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to learn more.

Bone health (fracture risk) review

From age 45 or if you are post-menopause, you should have a bone health review once a year. There are several factors that could increase your risk of osteoporosis (fragile bones) and it is important to have ongoing appointments with your GP.

It is important to have a regular GP, who you can trust. Your GP is your first stop when considering what health checks you might need.

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