December 5, 2023

More than two decades ago, my family and I went boating at the Burnham Park Lake. When we were near the middle of the lake, the boat started to fill with water and started to sink. We started to get off the boat.
With images of the “Titanic” flashing in my mind I started to panic and just as I was about to shout for help, my feet hit some nice flat concrete flooring. I felt funny as I stood there in knee-deep mud and brownish water. All the while I thought the lake was deep and I could drown there.
Attitude about health and medical check-up is like looking at the lake – we often think the processes are tedious, dangerous, expensive, and the findings can be shocking or terrible. We all fear the cost of medical examinations, the pain we feel when they stick needles into our arm to draw blood, we fear those tubes they poke into our body cavities, the radiation, and that of being alone in a cold unfamiliar room, flat on bed as we travel through a tube like structure for a CT scan or MRI.
And after the procedure, the agony of waiting for the results. No one is exempt from fear. But isn’t it better to conquer this fear and have those medical procedures, and discover that our fear is a lot greater than the pain of needles and the medical findings?
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. They say what you do not know will not hurt you, but in health what we find out early can help arrest the growth or progression of a tumor, or the early stage of a disease may be managed and complications can still be prevented.
In terms of expenses there are agencies that offer assistance – Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, insurance companies, the Malasakit Center, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Older female citizens or women with disability get 20 percent discount in medical procedures and medicines. Government and private hospitals alike offer free medical check-up in their outpatient sections.
Towns and barangays have physicians and nurses in charge of carrying out health programs that include medical check-up and treatment. They have been trained to refer complicated cases to hospitals or specialists.
So what basic medical examinations should women have?
Blood pressure check. This can be the first sign of kidney and other diseases, or if uncontrolled it can cause heart attack, stroke, heart and kidney failure, and blindness
Breast examination. A mammogram is recommended starting at 40 years old if a woman has no family history for breast cancer, then yearly thereafter. Women with a strong family history are advised to have mammogram at an earlier age. The ideal interval for screening is not known but some experts suggest a one to two-year interval.
Colonoscopy or rectosigmoidoscopy to screen for cancer of the large intestine or the rectum. There is no exposure to radiation and it can be done as an outpatient. In general, this is recommended for women age 45 years old and above, and earlier if with strong family history for cancer of the colon or rectum.
Pap smear and tests for human papilloma virus. Cervical cancer screening is recommended for those with a cervix aged 21 to 65 years old.
Skin examination to check melanoma or skin cancer.
Osteoporosis screening for postmenopausal women or for women with risk factors like prolonged use of steroids
Diabetes screening especially for women with risk factors like heart disease, family history, overweight or obesity, and hypertension.
Blood cholesterol tests beginning at age 45 years for women without risk factors or earlier for those with risk factors like family history of premature deaths from heart disease.
For women with history of smoking, screening for cancer of the lungs at age 50 years.
Dental examination.
Consult an ophthalmology for eye problems.
The tests depend on the woman’s age, family history, risk factors, and your physician’s assessment.
These tips can help as you prepare for medical examinations:
No nail polish, especially colored ones as these can mask pallor, a sign of anemia;
Don’t miss a medical appointment even if you are having your period;
Bring a list of your medical questions. Tell your physician about any change in your bowel habits, menstrual cycle, recent increase in blood pressure, frequent urination, and other symptoms;
Bring results of previous laboratory tests, X-rays, ultrasound, and other tests;
Mention diseases (if any) in your family like cancer, hypertension, diabetes; and
Previous prescriptions and other physicians you have consulted.
These will guide your physician in formulating diagnostic and treatment procedures.

Going back to Burnham Lake, I heard it has been cleaned up and that the water is now blue. One of these days I will go boating, without that Celine Dion song in my mind.