Woman Behold These Medical Tests In The Interest Of The Nation

Sun, 18 Dec 2011 Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

I coined the title for this article after reading Dr J. Kwegyir-Aggrey’s (1875-1927) famous quote, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation.” This statement remains absolutely true even today and ensuring a healthy nation starts right from the home and our women make all the difference.

Over and over again it has been proven that, the more knowledgeable the woman of the home is about health issues, the healthier that family will be. This information is not necessarily derived from sitting in a classroom to study but can be acquired through word of mouth and the various forms of media. The irony of the situation is that women will often sacrifice their health to ensure that other members of the family are well and happy.

I hope that our dear women will use the last days of this year to think about their health. Surely when you are healthy, then you will be able to take better care of the people you love. Husbands and children can also spring a surprise on the mother of the house by paying for them to do all or at least some of the tests discussed below. What a great Christmas and New Year gift that would be.

The tests listed below act only as a guide and it is important that you discuss when (or if at all necessary) to do them with your doctor or healthcare professional. The age at which you may have to do these tests may differ from the average age stated here and the frequency of being screened may also be different. These differences may be influenced by certain risk factors that you may or may not have.

A. Breast Cancer Screening

a. The mammogram is a well known test. It is a great idea to get one at age 40 even if you do not have any obvious risk factors. If a family member has had breast cancer before then 35years or even earlier may be a great time. Thereafter you may have annual checks or as directed by your doctor.

b. We all do monthly breast exams don’t we? I know we do it at the same time of the month to ensure consistency. It may be worthwhile to get a professional to examine your breasts at age twenty and then every three years till age 40 when it should be done yearly.

c. Ultrasound scans of the breasts may also be helpful.

d. I have stated over and over again that exercise reduces our risk of breast cancer

B. Cervical Cancer Screening

a. It is recommended that we have a PAP smear and pelvic exam once we are sexually active or at age 18 then annually, or every 3 years after 3 normal Pap smears in a row

b. Others prefer the more sensitive Pap smear plus HPV (human papillomavirus) DNA and a pelvic exam at age 30. This may be repeated every 3 years. Not all women will have access to this and (a). is good enough

C. Colorectal Cancer Screening

a. You may request for a colonoscopy at age 50 and then repeat this every ten years if it is normal. Colonoscopy is great since it allows the person doing the procedure to see your entire large intestine or bowel. If you have a polyp it can be removed to avoid becoming malignant in the future. Once you have a polyp or a family member has had colon cancer before then repeat screening is done in less than a decade.

b. Others have tried several options such as testing for blood in faeces (not conclusive and has to be combined with other tests), doing a flexible sigmoidoscopy where only the lower part of the large intestine is examined, and last but not the least an air-contrast barium enema.

D. Heart Disease Screening

a. The mention of cancer certainly sends shivers down some spines but the heart also draws a lot of “respect” any day. Lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar (diabetes) all increase our risk of heart diseases.

b. Blood cholesterol needs to be checked by age 20 or 18 when you do your first “mandatory” (can we suggest that) blood pressure check. Subsequent blood cholesterol checks will depend on our baseline results and your doctor will determine the frequency. Remember that both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are “silent” and we can only know our status early when we check.

c. Diabetes certainly creates “hunger in the midst of plenty.” This is because you will have a lot of sugar in your blood but the cells are hungry because they are unable to access this sugar. Diabetes not only destroys multiple organs in our body, it also drains our pockets. If we do not have it, let us adopt a healthy lifestyle to ward it off. If we already are victims, a healthy lifestyle will still protect us from many complications. Why wait till you are forty plus to check your blood sugar? Get it done when you check your cholesterol and blood pressure.

E. Glaucoma Screening

a. This eye condition characterized by increased pressure in the eye can also be silent and then can lead to sudden blindness. If you are diabetic, have nearsighted vision or have a family history of glaucoma, please check your eye pressure by age 40, otherwise 60 years may not be bad. For those of us in Ghana we need to remember that we happen to in the top 2 when the roll for the prevalence of glaucoma is called.

F. Bone Health

a. It is important to check how strong our bones are and our risk of osteoporosis (causes a decrease in bone mass and loss of structural strength). Osteoporosis as you may know is referred to as the silent thief. Breaking a bone can change your life forever so don’t wait for it to happen. We could be assessed by age 65 or when we are menopausal.

G. Thyroid Health

a. Thyroid diseases can be troubling and may mimic so many other conditions. We could screen for it at age 35 and then every 5 years.

It may be worthwhile to know your HIV status and should you go through an antenatal clinic I believe your Hepatitis B status will also be checked. Screening is a good thing to do but always remember to go to the right place to ensure that the results are worth the money and time spent.

Dear women, take control of your health so that we can grow healthy families and a wealthy nation. Remember good health is a prerequisite for development.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club




1. www.webmd.com /women’s health

2. www.afriprov.org

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba