McKINNEY (May 9, 2013) — As a mom, you typically take care of everyone else in the family first. But in order to continue to play the role of caretaker for years to come, you have to look after yourself, too. In honor of Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of good health and take the time to schedule these important screenings.
There are no sure things in medicine, but mammograms, which can find breast cancer in its earliest stages, come pretty close.
“Mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast, can detect something two years before we can see or feel it,” says Shannon Deshazo, MD, a family physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at McKinney. “And because early detection is key to effectively treating cancer, mammograms are our best line of defense against breast cancer.”
Dr. Deshazo recommends getting a mammogram every year, beginning at age 40. “Risk increases as you age, so you never graduate from breast cancer screenings,” she says. “By the time you are 80 years old, you have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer.”
And keep in mind that you may need to start screening earlier based on family history. “Typically, we recommend women have the exam 10 years before the age that their relative was when they had their first diagnosis,” Dr. Deshazo says.
While colonoscopy gets a bad reputation, the exam’s ability to catch cancer early has made it one of the stars of the screening world.
Most adults should schedule their first colonoscopy at age 50. “There’s really no reason to do it sooner, unless there’s a family history or there’s the presence of a bowel disease, such as Crohn’s,” Dr. Deshazo says.
In addition to colonoscopies, women should start getting rectal exams by age 40 to check for blood in the stool and other potential issues.
“While these aren’t anyone’s favorite exams, they can be lifesaving. Colon cancer can remain silent until it’s too late, and it has already spread,” Dr. Deshazo says.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association, so it’s important to stay on top of your ticker. “By age 50, every woman needs to be having an EKG and blood work every year to check the health of her heart and lungs,” Dr. Deshazo says. “Heart disease doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms, so these checks are essential.”
But keeping tabs on heart health doesn’t start at 50. Beginning at age 20, your doctor should monitor your cholesterol, blood pressure and other risk factors every five years or so. “Once you hit 40, cholesterol screenings should happen every other year,” Dr. Deshazo adds.
Be honest with your physician about risk factors, such as smoking, stress and diet. Your doctor can help you improve your habits now, which will lower your risk for heart disease in the future.
“Talking to your doctor and having these exams can help women avoid serious issues down the road,” Dr. Deshazo says.
PELVIC EXAM AND PAP TEST
In recent years, the recommended frequency of gynecological exams has changed. While most women refer to their annual screening as a Pap test, it is actually the pelvic exam that should be done every year. “The Pap smear is just a portion of the pelvic exam, and the recommendations for Pap are changing,” Dr. Deshazo says.
A pelvic exam involves a comprehensive check of your entire pelvic area; a Pap smear entails taking a few cells from your cervix to check for abnormalities, which could signal cervical cancer.
“While it used to be that women should have a Pap every year with their pelvic exam, that has changed to a recommendation of every three to five years for the Pap smear for certain populations,” she adds.
Confused? “Every adult woman, no matter her age, should get a pelvic exam every year,” Dr. Deshazo says. “Talk to your doctor about how often you need a Pap smear.” And, she says, that advice holds true for health screenings across the board: “If you’re unsure of what exams you need and when, ask your doctor. Don’t just ignore it.”
Schedule Your Screenings: Take the time to catch up on recommended exams. For a physician referral, call 1-800-4BAYLOR (422-9567).
About Baylor Medical Center at McKinney
Located at the northwest corner of Highway 380 and Lake Forest Drive, Baylor McKinney features a 95-bed, full-service hospital and surrounding medical office campus. Hospital services include heart and vascular, cancer, imaging, obstetrics and gynecology, level III NICU with private suites, digestive diseases, orthopedics, general surgery, neurology, internal medicine, emergency care and outpatient services. Visit BaylorHealth.com/mckinney.
About Baylor Health Care System
Baylor Health Care System is a not-for-profit, faith-based supporting organization providing services to a network of acute care hospitals and related health care entities that provide patient care, medical education, research and community service. Baylor recorded more than 2.8 million patient encounters, $4.1 billion in total operating revenue, $5.3 billion in total assets and $539 million in community benefit in fiscal year 2012 (as reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services). Baylor’s network of more than 360 access points includes 30 owned/operated/ventured/affiliated hospitals; joint ventured ambulatory surgical centers; satellite outpatient locations; senior centers and more than 190 HealthTexas Provider Network physician clinics. For information visit BaylorHealth.com.