What is a well woman health screening?
What is a well woman health screening?
A well woman health screening consists of a variety of checks designed to catch early signs of health disorders. It’ll also produce a general overview of your current health status and wellbeing. As a major concern for a lot of women in the UK, these examinations help to provide peace of mind by targeting health issues such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and other pelvic disorders. The checks can be life-saving because they can spot health problems before you’ve experienced any symptoms.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ age to have a well woman health screening. You also don’t have to have noticed anything such as a lump or a new mole to book an appointment. We all think about what’s going on under our skin every now and again, so don’t feel that you’re ‘unsuitable’ to go for a check!
The NHS offers free screenings to women aged 60 and above with an invitation to come back every few years. Private clinics are open to women of all ages, with many women attending an assessment once a year.
What will the screening entail?
A well women health screening usually lasts about 30 minutes. The tests you will undergo are largely related to your age, but also take into consideration your medical history. Your medical history will predominantly focus on your previous health records, as well as notable health issues experienced by your family members. It’s likely that you’ll be asked about your periods, any previous pregnancies, and whether you have experienced unusual bleeding or discharge.
Before the examinations you’ll be asked a few questions about your lifestyle; mainly aimed at diet, exercise and how much you drink and smoke. As soon as you and your doctor or nurse are happy, you’ll start the physical examinations.
The checks differ based on your age. There is also some variation dependent on the clinic you choose to attend.
For women aged 40 and under
Most screenings begin with a recording of your height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). Your blood pressure is then usually taken before a full blood analysis. Here are some of the examinations most commonly seen at a well woman health screening.
Your blood profile can be completed through a conventional blood test, or from a simple prick of the finger (it depends on what’s being analysed). Your blood tests will assess things such as: blood health, cholesterol, liver health, kidney health and bone health. These tests can also identify blood disorders and diseases such as: anaemia, clotting problems, infection, immune system disorders and blood cancer.
Abdominal and pelvic examination
Your doctor or nurse will begin with an external examination of your vulva, followed by a check of the cervix. A speculum will help your doctor or nurse to clearly examine your cervix. During this time, swabs will be taken to help detect infection and cervical cancer. Your doctor or nurse will then feel your fallopian tubes and your womb by using one or two fingers inside your vagina. Concurrent checks will be made for enlarged ovaries caused by cysts.Although it may sound slightly daunting, most women only experience mild discomfort during this examination. Your doctor or nurse will ask how you’re feeling frequently throughout.
This ultrasound examination assesses the health of your reproductive organs, highlighting any issues with your womb, ovaries or fallopian tubes along the way. A lubricated probe is placed in your vagina sending high frequency waves through your reproductive organs and tissue. The waves are converted into images which are then analysed.
Your doctor or nurse will examine your breasts to make sure they’re healthy. They’ll be viewed and felt to check for any lumps, discharge or masses or unusual skin puckering.
Women aged 40-50
All of the aforementioned examinations are recommended for women aged 40 and above. If you are aged between 40 and 50, you’ll also receive a CA 125 test. This blood sample test examines the level of protein CA-125 in the blood. If levels are high, it may be an indication of ovarian cancer.
Women aged 50 and above
Similarly, it is generally advised that women aged 50 and above receive all of the previous checks as well as one additional test; a breast mammogram. This test examines abnormalities in the breasts using X-rays by placing the breasts one at a time between two machine plates. Though sometimes considered as an uncomfortable process, this test is over quickly.
Some clinics may also offer additional screenings such as sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and fertility screening. This often depends on how much you’re spending, so it’s worth checking beforehand if you’re interested in these kinds of tests.
Before you book a well woman health screening, have a browse through different clinics and see what’s on offer. Once you’ve had a look at the available examinations, think about what you’re most interested in having checked. You’ll then find it easier to choose the screening that’s right for you.
Private clinics offer a wider range of examinations for a well woman health screening than those available for free on the NHS. The number of checks you can have are relative to how much you’re spending. This also means it’s usually slightly more expensive if you fall into the age bracket for maximum recommended checks (50 years and above).
Women aged 40 can expect to pay around £350 for a sufficient, thorough test. For women aged 50 and above the figure is closer to £600.
You’ll never need an explicit reason to have a well woman health screening, but if you are carrying any concerns about your current health status, booking an appointment for a check-up may be the right thing for you.
The Cromwell Hospital in London offers comprehensive health assessments at varying prices. Your health assessment will begin with a consultation with a Cromwell GP who will ask some questions about your health and whether you are taking any medication. This information will ensure you receive the appropriate health assessment for you.