Screening Tests for Women Archive


How to monitor-and lower-your blood pressure at home

Tracking your blood pressure readings over time will help you and your doctor make more educated treatment decisions.

For the millions of women with high blood pressure, intermittent blood pressure checks at the doctor's office might not be enough. Health organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Society of Hypertension (hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure) recommend that people with high blood pressure monitor their readings more often at home.

When to seek genetic testing for heart disease









Photo: Thinkstock

Genetic testing is family testing for several heart diseases.

If genetic heart disease strikes a family, testing offers options.

Breast cancer: When and how often to get screened

How do you make sense of conflicting mammography guidelines?

How often do you need to get a mammogram, and at what age should you stop having this test? If you follow the American Cancer Society's guidelines, you'll have yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as you're in good health. The National Cancer Institute recommends mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40. But in 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)—a panel of health experts that reviews screening tests like mammography—released new recommendations, which advise starting mammograms only at age 50, then having the test every other year and stopping at age 74.

When to worry about a cough

Q. Doctors always say to get checked out if you have a persistent cough. But how long would a cough have to last before I should see a doctor?

A. Medically speaking, a persistent (or chronic) cough is one that lasts more than three to four weeks. The most common reason for a new cough is an upper respiratory infection from the common cold, which is usually caused by a virus. A cough from an upper respiratory infection could persist for up to two months. In the case of pertussis, or whooping cough, the cough could last for up to three months.

Online Alzheimer's tests get "F" from experts

Many online tests for Alzheimer's disease are inaccurate, unscientific, and unethical, according to a study presented at the recent Alzheimer's Association's International Conference in Boston.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada evaluated online tests that claim to determine if a person has signs of Alzheimer's disease. They scrutinized a representative sample of 16 websites, which the researchers did not name. A panel of experts rated most of the sites "poor" or "very poor" in their ability to diagnose Alzheimer's disease based on current scientific understanding. The tests also fell short on ethical measures, such as explaining the site's privacy policy or disclosing that companies were using the tests to market products. However, the tests did a pretty good job of presenting the material in a usable, understandable form for older people.

Panel backs HCV test for baby boomers

A national panel of experts on disease prevention, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), now recommends that all Americans born from 1946 to 1964 should be tested at least once for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The recommendation follows an earlier call for wider screening for hidden HCV by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HCV infects the liver. Over time it can cause inflammation, liver damage, and cancer. The infected person's blood can transmit the virus. Past or present intravenous drug users and anyone in the United States who received a blood transfusion before 1992 are at heightened risk. Most of the estimated 3.2 million Americans now infected are unaware they have the virus. Prolonged treatments with antiviral drugs can prevent further liver damage and the need for a transplant.

Ask the doctor: Should you keep that yearly check-up?







Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D.

Q. I'm 73 and in great health. Is it okay to skip my annual physical?

A. It all depends on what you mean by "great health" and "annual physical." I would define "great health" as having no known chronic illnesses. However, most people your age have at least one chronic illness—such as high blood pressure. People with chronic illnesses need to be checked out at least once a year, and usually more often.

Ask the doctor: The trouble with the body mass index

Q. So many times I have read that people with a BMI greater than 25 are overweight. I'm a man 5 feet, 5 inches tall weighing 168 pounds. My BMI is 28. I have a flat stomach. I lift weights and do push-ups and pull-ups. Does the BMI mislead body builders and athletes by saying we are overweight?

A. You are correct that body mass index (BMI) is a very imperfect measure of obesity. It does not account for differences in body shape and muscularity, and if you are very muscular, then your BMI of 27.95 is not worrisome at all.

Real-time digital mammograms more accurate than computed radiography

Computed radiography (CR), a type of mammogram that records breast images on a cassette and then transfers them to a computer, is not as effective at picking up breast cancer as digital direct radiography (DR), a study finds.

New guidelines recommend CT screening for long-term smokers

New guidelines recommend low-dose CT screening for current and former smokers ages 55 to 74 who have smoked a total of 30 or more pack-years (one pack-year is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for one year).

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