High blood pressure is a risk factor for a number of diseases, including heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and preeclampsia inpregnancy. It is important to have this checked, ideally at each appointment with your doctor, as it may be elevated without you experiencing any symptoms.
For more information, see Blood Pressure.
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol is a risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease and stroke, and likewise can be elevated in the absence of any symptoms. This is not purely a disorder of overweight people like some may think, but also occurs in apparently healthy individuals.
For more information, see Cholesterol.
For those aged 50–75, the Cancer Council of Australia recommends screening by way of a faecal occult blood test every two years for people without symptoms or a strong history of bowel cancer. This is a simple test that detects the presence of blood in the faeces, which may be invisible to the naked eye. If performed every two years, this screening test can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to one third.
If you are experiencing symptoms, have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, or have a positive FOBT result, a colonoscopy may be performed regardless of your age.
For more information, see Screening for Bowel Cancer.
Pap smears are simple tests that involve taking a sample of the cells in yourcervix to identify early changes that, if left untreated, may develop into cervical cancer. Provided you have not previously had a Pap smear with an abnormal result, all women should have a Pap smear every two years after their first sexual intercourse or from the age of 18, whichever occurs later.
For more information, see Pap Smear.
Have regular breast examinations. These aim to detect any skin changes or lumps in the breast which may be a sign of breast cancer. These should be performed regularly by your local GP. You may wish to ask your GP to show you and provide instructions on how to perform a self breast examination (examining yourself) to supplement those performed by your doctor.
Women between the ages of 50 and 69 should have a mammogram every 2 years. Mammography services are available for women from age 40 up until age 75.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer (affected first degree relatives; early age of onset, etc) you should mention this to your GP as other screening investigations may be appropriate.
For more information, see Breast Cancer.
The Cancer Council Australia does not recommend universal screening for prostate cancer. However, those who are:
- At higher risk:
should be screened for prostate cancer by way of a:
- Digital rectal examination: To check the size, consistency and any irregularities or the prostate; and
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: Simple blood test which measures the amount of prostate specific antigen, a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland and present in the blood.
For more information, see PSA Testing.
Although many may be put off by having their testicles examined, this is a quick and simple examination that may be lifesaving. Unlike many other cancers, testicular cancer is most common in younger age groups, with a peak incidence between the ages of 20 and 40 years.
Some individuals are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer, including those with:
- History of cryptorchidism (undescended testes);
- Family history of testicular cancer;
- Testicular trauma;
- Mumps; and
- Certain occupational exposures, including wood dust and chromate dyes.
Examination is especially important if you have noticed any abnormalities of the testes, including hard lumps, swelling, change in consistency or a dull ache in the testicle or lower abdomen.
For more information, see Early Detection of Testicular Cancer.
|For more information on staying healthy in the New Year, including tips on diet, partying, exercise and general health, see Health in the New Year.|
- Barr ELM, Magliano DJ, Zimmet PZ, Polkinhorne KR, Atkins RC, Dunstan DW, et al. AusDiab 2005: The Australian diabetes, obesity and lifestyle study: Tracking the accelerating epidemic, its causes and outcomes. Melbourne, Australia: International Diabetes Institute; 2006.
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Guidelines for preventative activities in general practice (7th edition) [online]. 1 May 2009 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.racgp.org.au/ Content/ NavigationMenu/ ClinicalResources/ RACGPGuidelines/ TheRedBook/ redbook_7th_edition_May_2009.pdf
- Cancer Council Australia. Position statement: Bowel cancer screening [online]. 24 April 2008 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.cancer.org.au// File/ PolicyPublications/ PSbowelcancerscreeningupdatedApril08.pdf
- Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. National Cervical Screening Program [online]. 11 November 2009 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/ internet/ screening/ publishing.nsf/ Content/ cervical-about
- Cancer Council Australia. Breast cancer screening [online]. 29 October 2009 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.cancer.org.au/ cancersmartlifestyle/ Earlydetection/ Screeningprograms/ Breastcancerscreening.htm
- Cancer Council Australia. Position statement: Prostate cancer screening [online]. April 2008 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.cancer.org.au/ File/ PolicyPublications/ Position_statements/ PS-Prostate_cancer_screening_Apr08.pdf
- Cancer Council Australia. Position statement: Testicular cancer [online]. April 2008 [cited 12 December 2009]. Available from URL: http://www.cancer.org.au// File/ PolicyPublications/ PStesticularcancerupdatedApr08.pdf