It’s important for all people to schedule regular wellness tests, in part to practice preventative healthcare. But there are certain, specific lab tests that women in particular need to consider. Here’s what you need to know about a few of the most common lab tests for women’s health.
Why are Lab Tests Important for Women?
Women face diverse and distinctive challenges when it comes to their mental, physical, and reproductive health, some of which may be life-changing. Discriminatory sociocultural factors, such as gender bias in healthcare, may also negatively effect women. One way women can combat these obstacles and take control of their own health is to undergo regular screenings, particularly for cervical cancer, diabetes, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer is a disease that causes malignant cells to form in the cervix, which is the area between the uterus and the vagina. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one major contributor to the development of cervical cancer, though the number of new cases and deaths associated with the disease have greatly decreased thanks to both the pap and HPV test.
For early detection (and therefore more successful treatment, should it become necessary), it’s highly recommended that all women above the age of 21 get a pap and/or HPV test every 3-5 years. Both tests can be performed in a doctor’s office or clinic, and involve the insertion of a metal or plastic instrument known as a speculum to expand your vagina. Cells and mucus are then collected from the cervix, and sent to a laboratory for inspection and diagnosis.
Diabetic Health Panel
Women who have experienced gestational diabetes or live with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. All people above the age of 45 should get tested for diabetes, but it’s especially important for women living with these conditions or other risk factors. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, “Nearly one in three American women have heart trouble. And those diagnosed with diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack — with three times the probability they’ll die from that heart attack compared to women without diabetes.”
A health check for diabetes and prediabetes includes a few specific blood tests, the primary for both being the A1C test, the random plasma glucose (RPG) test, and the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test. Healthcare professionals will proceed to measure your blood sugar to find out if any of the levels are abnormal, and then recommend treatment options.
All sexually active people should get tested for STIs. However, sexually active women are particularly at risk of developing them, among the most common being HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. This includes sexually active young adults and adolescents under the age of 25.
For chlamydia and gonorrhea, doctors screen patients by taking a urine test or swabbing the cervix. These samples are then observed in a laboratory. Both of these STIs can present as asymptomatic, making it especially important for sexually active women to get tested. If left untreated, both can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which causes several complications, including possible infertility.
All sexually active adolescents and adult women between the ages of 13 and 64 should also regularly get tested for HIV. This is especially important for women, as studies indicate that women may often be diagnosed with HIV later in their disease, which leads to fewer women receiving proper HIV treatment. Tests usually include blood samples that are analyzed in a lab.
We encourage everyone of all gender identities to get regularly tested for their overall health and wellbeing, and offer a variety of testing services specific to women that provide accurate and timely results. Please connect with us online or by calling us at (678) 433-0607.