YOUR HEALTH The im­por­tance of med­i­cal check­ups

Im­prove the qual­ity of your life by hav­ing reg­u­lar med­i­cal check-ups

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Boi­tumelo Mat­shaba

AT the start of ev­ery new year, peo­ple set goals and make res­o­lu­tions. How­ever, health check-ups hardly ever make it to the to-do list for the year. Doc­tors ar­gue that med­i­cal check-ups should be top pri­or­ity. These in­clude test­ing for HIV, can­cer, high blood pres­sure and di­a­betes.


Dr Sophia Mokoka from Pre­to­ria says it is im­por­tant to go for reg­u­lar check-ups in or­der to know what ill­nesses you have and to find out how to man­age them.

“Reg­u­lar check-ups and tests are of great im­por­tance be­cause know­ing your health sta­tus means you can take bet­ter care of your­self,” she says.

“One of the ben­e­fits of test­ing or go­ing for reg­u­lar check-ups is that doc­tors can de­tect some ill­nesses early and in­ter­vene be­fore they do any dam­age or cause any com­pli­ca­tions in your body. “How­ever, test­ing does not elim­i­nate the dis­ease and is not a cure. It helps you to bet­ter care for your­self and con­tinue liv­ing healthy. It should be an on­go­ing process.”


Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the South African In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions (SAIRR), the rate of new HIV in­fec­tions has de­creased by 39 per cent be­tween 2009 and 2016. This is means South Africa is fi­nally winning the bat­tle against HIV, but it also means that we must pre­vent re­in­fec­tion and pro­tect our­selves from con­tract­ing the virus.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Sophia, test­ing for HIV and discovering you are HIV neg­a­tive does not mean you can have mul­ti­ple part­ners, not use a con­dom or be reck­less.

“You should still con­tinue to take care of your­self and use pro­tec­tion. Test­ing should be done ide­ally

ev­ery three months be­cause of the win­dow pe­riod, which is the pe­riod where there are new in­fec­tions of the virus which can test neg­a­tive in the early stages of de­tec­tion. Test­ing reg­u­larly will give an ac­cu­rate HIV sta­tus,” says Dr Sophia.

There is a myth that if you have con­tracted HIV or you and your part­ner are both HIV pos­i­tive you need not use a con­dom. Dr Sophia says this is not true. Those liv­ing with HIV should al­ways use con­doms to pre­vent re­in­fec­tion of the virus.


Test­ing for ill­nesses such as can­cer much later can be dan­ger­ous. Your can­cer could be de­tected at stage four, where there is not much that can be done by doc­tors. So the ear­lier you have it checked the bet­ter.

Dr Sophia says, “There are a lot of can­cers in your blood. We check the level of the en­zyme in your blood. Some­times it’s high and can be sug­ges­tive of a can­cer or it can be a con­di­tion that older men can get called Benign Pro­static Hyper­pla­sia (BPH), where the prostate gland en­larges. Ev­ery man be­tween the ages of 40 and 50 should get checked out.”

With breast can­cer, ev­ery woman should do a self-ex­am­i­na­tion reg­u­larly and mam­mo­gram at the age of 40. If you are younger than the age of 40, Dr Sophia says the mam­mo­gram is not sen­si­tive and will not be able to rule out breast can­cer. Other can­cers such as ovar­ian can­cer and colon can­cer can be in­her­ited from your fam­ily and that is why doc­tors al­ways ask pa­tients with can­cer if there is a his­tory of can­cer in the fam­ily. Dr Sophia says if there is a his­tory of can­cer in your fam­ily, you should get tested.

“I also rec­om­mend that you get tested for the BRCA gene. If you test pos­i­tive for it, you are at a pre­dis­po­si­tion for breast and ovar­ian can­cers. If you have tested once for this type of can­cer that is enough, it’s not some­thing you need to test fre­quently for,” she says.


A pap smear is a test used to screen for cer­vi­cal can­cer. Dr Sophia says ac­cord­ing to govern­ment, from the age of 30 ev­ery woman should have a pap smear ev­ery 10 years, but in the pri­vate sec­tor you can have it ev­ery three years.

Women in their 20s can also get cer­vi­cal can­cer. The older you get, the more the chances of de­vel­op­ing cer­vi­cal can­cer. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Fran­cois Lubbe from Joburg, it is im­por­tance to look out for prob­lems in your pri­vate part, just as it is im­por­tant to have an an­nual pap smear. This is why a thor­ough pap smear will in­clude in­spec­tion of the vulva and pri­vate part.


You should con­sider test­ing for di­a­betes, es­pe­cially if you are in your 40s. Di­a­betes can af­fect your well-be­ing and even more so your sex life. The sooner you get tested the sooner you can man­age it and live a good life.

Pre­to­ria-based sex­ol­o­gist, Dr Christa Coet­zee, says, “Be­ing a di­a­betic is a health chal­lenge that of­ten spills over to other ar­eas of your life, with sex­ual func­tion­ing and plea­sure be­ing one of them. In women, high blood glu­cose can lead to fre­quent vagi­nal yeast in­fec­tions and uri­nary tract in­fec­tions.”

High blood pres­sure can also dam­age blood cir­cu­la­tion, lead­ing to the same arousal and orgasm prob­lems as high blood glu­cose. The im­pli­ca­tion for women is a neg­a­tive im­pact on sex­ual re­sponse and vagi­nal lu­bri­ca­tion. The im­pli­ca­tion for men could be erec­tile dys­func­tion or other ejac­u­la­tion prob­lems.

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