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Why Have A Well Woman Check?

Having trouble finding the time to visit the doctor? Dreading the thought of an embarrassing pelvic examination? You’re most definitely not alone.

Yes, it’s a pain to sit in the stirrups and endure blood sample testing but early detection of problems saves lives, so now’s the time to think about investing in a Well Woman Check. More and more ladies are now choosing to get these done annually. They’re relatively quick and cost less than you think.

In this day and age we’re so busy that doing the most basic things such as looking after our health can get put at the bottom of our oh-so-long to do lists. And yet without our health we have very little else.

Going private for a Well Woman Check means you needn’t wait until you’re experiencing symptoms to check and address any problems. The earlier those issues are detected, the better chance there is of solving them.

What does a Well Woman Check involve?
Essentially a Well Woman Check is looking for red flags that could signal a range of problems like breast or cervical cancer and pelvic disorders.

The different tests you receive in a Well Woman Check could depend upon your age, largely, or perhaps certain elements in your medical history.

A good clinic will be able to advise on the specific screenings that are suitable for you to undertake.

We’ve outlined the possibilities here…

For women under 40 years:

  • Abdominal and Pelvic examination – This usually involves an external examination of the vulva in the first instance, followed by a check of the cervix. Your health professional will place a speculum into the vagina. This is a device that opens your vagina, allowing your cervix to be seen clearly.

    Often at this point, swabs will also be taken to screen for infections and cervical cancer. After this, your health professional will feel inside your vagina using one or two fingers, during which time their other hand will be placed on your lower abdomen. Using this technique, a doctor is able to feel your fallopian tubes and your womb – its size and how it is positioned.

    Ovaries that are enlarged by cysts will also be able to be felt. Your doctor should also be able to tell if you have any problems such as glandular cysts inside your vagina. Throughout this process you will be asked if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort. Most women will only feel mild discomfort.

  • Blood pressure and weight – important health indicators such as these will be checked (and of course, the good news is these checks are quick and painless.
  • Breast examination – your breasts will be viewed and felt to check for any lumps or abnormalities such as discharge, masses or unusual skin puckering.
  • Full Blood Count – this test measures numerous parts of the blood and can be helpful in detecting blood disorders and diseases such as anaemia, clotting problems, infection, immune system disorders and blood cancer. It consists of a blood sample being taken and then sent for analysis.
  • Lipid Profile – a blood test that measures elements of cholesterol to assess an individual’s potential for problems such as heart disease and stroke.
  • Liver and kidney function test – a sample of blood will be drawn and sent for analysis to assess the effectiveness of your liver and kidneys.
  • Medical history – the doctor will ask you about your periods, any previous pregnancies, any history of unusual bleeding or discharge and so on.
  • Transvaginal Scan – this helps to get a clearer sense of the health of your reproductive organs, and a more detailed picture if there are any problems with your womb, ovaries or fallopian tubes. During this ultrasound a probe wrapped in a condom with lubricant will be placed into your vagina. Via the probe, high-frequency sound waves pass through your reproductive organs and tissue. These waves then pass back to a detector which converts the waves into images of the reproductive organs.

For women between the ages of 40-50 it is generally recommended that you undergo all of the tests as in the under 40 age group above, plus:

  • CA 125 for Ovarian Screen – a blood sample test that measures the level of a protein (CA-125) in the blood. High levels may be an indication of ovarian cancer in some women.

For women over the age of 50 it is generally seen as advisable to undergo all of the tests as recommended for women between the ages of 40-50 years, and:

  • A breast mammogram – an x-ray of the breast used in screening for breast cancer. A radiographer will help you to place one breast at a time in between two small flat X-ray machine plates. The plates then squeeze your breast firmly between them for a moment to take the X-ray. This compression helps in giving a clear picture and spotting any abnormalities. You will have two X-rays of each breast – one from the side and one from above. Although this procedure is a little bit uncomfortable for most women, the good news is that it rarely actually hurts considerably. The thing to remember is that it is really a very quick process.

Different clinics will offer different options with varying price structures and some things will depend on you. For example you may or may choose to opt for STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) screening.

If available, you may want to undergo Fertility Screening. This will involve a blood test to check your Anti-Mullerian Hormone or AMH levels, as well as an ultrasound to assess your antral follicle count. These factors can help to determine your level of fertility.

How much does a Well Woman Check cost?
The key thing is to find out from clinics up front exactly what their Well Woman Check includes and how much it will cost. Prices vary but we think a reasonable pricing (without a cervical swab test for cancer or STIs, or a fertility test or ovarian ultrasound screening) would be around £350 for women under 40, £420 for women between 40-50 and £600 for women over the age of 50.

Undergoing a Well Woman Check can be truly worthwhile, especially if you’ve any additional concerns. It’s so easy to put work, family and even socializing above health checks but we forget that without our health, our ability to enjoy all of these parts of life is severely compromised.

We have put together a list of reputable Gynaecology Care clinics where you can consult a gynaecologist for your Well Woman Check.

We thank Dr Eskander of The Gynae Centre, for providing specialist knowledge for this article.

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