Your health is so important to your quality of life. Preventive health care and regular visits to your practitioner are at the top of the list of action steps you can take to stay happy and healthy.

A test result can provide a wake-up call to help focus attention on an area of your health that requires monitoring or immediate intervention. A test score can also be an indicator that you have some sort of internal imbalance and that your health could be degenerating, perhaps even heading down the path toward disease.

At Women's Health Network, we celebrate the body’s ability to heal itself — given optimal support and enough time. Test results can be incredibly helpful allies as you strive to keep your body in healthy balance.

Tests for bone health

Practicing preventive health care is especially important for bone health because it’s very rare for women to experience symptoms when they start to lose bone density. Your bones serve as a round-the-clock reservoir for many of the crucial chemical processes and exchanges that occur internally. They give of themselves dynamically, producing all-important immune cells and blood cells, and acting as a “mineral bank” for the entire body. Tests and screenings for bone health are among the few clues a woman has to determine if the bone health process is in healthy balance, or if her bones are being overtapped to manage imbalances occurring elsewhere in her system.

BONE HEALTH TESTS
Name of testWhat is this test for?Who should have this test?
Vitamin DBlood test used regularly to determine ongoing level of vitamin D; or to see if bone weakness, malformation, or abnormal metabolism of calcium is occurring as a result of a deficiency or excess of vitamin D; also used to monitor vitamin D-related fat absorption.All women, young and old, including teens, pregnant women, women in perimenopause and menopause, the elderly, women living in northern climates, those with minimal sun exposure, the obese, and anyone with dark skin; women who suspect they may have low vitamin D or calcium levels, bone weakness, or fracture.
DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry)X-ray scan used to measure bone mineral density (BMD) by determining the mineral content of selected parts of the skeleton; provides a snapshot of current bone mass.Women in perimenopause or menopause (might be considered earlier to establish baseline); women in early menopause or those with premature ovarian failure; women with amenorrhea; women with eating disorders; people on certain chemotherapy regimens; anyone suspected of having poor bone health.
NTx (N-telopeptide)Blood or urine test which measures the cross-linked N-telopeptides on bone type I collagen (NTx), an indicator of bone resorption; can be repeated regularly to assess rate of bone turnover and to monitor treatment effectiveness as well.Women in perimenopause or menopause; women in early menopause or those with premature ovarian failure; women with amenorrhea; women with eating disorders; certain breast cancer patients.
Deoxypyridinium (D-pyr) crosslinksUrine test which measures markers of bone resorption/turnover.Women in perimenopause or menopause; anyone concerned with or suspected of having poor bone health.
24-hour urine calcium excretionUrine test which measures amount of excreted calcium as a measure for poor uptake, bone turnover, and excessive bone loss.Women in perimenopause or menopause; those concerned with or suspected of having poor bone health.
Intact parathyroid hormone (PTH)Blood test which measures PTH, a marker for bone turnover and excessive bone loss.Women in perimenopause or menopause; those concerned with or suspected of having poor bone health.

Other important tests

When you see your healthcare practitioner for a routine physical exam, she will often call for a number of familiar-sounding, screening tests to help paint an accurate picture of your health at that point in time. But if you have a specific health issue, or you aren’t feeling well, you may be asked to have tests or evaluations which aren’t familiar. While the idea of this can be overwhelming and even a little scary sometimes, the more you know before you have a new test or screening, the better.

This simple chart will help you sort out what these tests are for and who should have them.

ADDITIONAL HEALTH TESTS AND SCREENINGS
Name of testWhat is this test for?Who should have this test?
MammogramLow-dose x-ray scan to screen for and detect breast cancer/disease; also available as full-field digital mammography (FFDM) which converts x-rays into electrical signals; best used as companion screening tool with other technology and examinations.Traditionally recommended for women aged 40 and above as a screening device for early detection of breast cancer; also used diagnostically following abnormal clinical findings.
TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)Blood test which measures TSH, a hormone excreted by the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine), which is then converted to T3 (triiodothyronine) to be used by the cells; used to evaluate thyroid function and screen for thyroid disorders; sometimes used to diagnose fertility problems.Recommended for symptoms of hypothyroidism (high TSH accompanied by low T4 levels) or hyperthyroidism (low TSH accompanied by high T4 levels), or when thyroid gland is enlarged; routinely used as newborn health screening.
Total thyroxine (T4)Blood test that measures both bound (attached to thyroxine-binding globulin) and free thyroxine.Recommended for symptoms of hyperthyroidism (low TSH accompanied by high T4 levels), or when thyroid gland is enlarged; also used to track treatment effectiveness.
Triiodothyronine (T3)Blood test that measures both bound (attached to thyroxine-binding globulin) and free triiodothyronine.Recommended for symptoms of hypothyroidism (high TSH accompanied by low T4 levels) or hyperthyroidism (low TSH accompanied by high T4 levels), or when thyroid gland is enlarged.
CRP (C-reactive protein) and hs-CRP (high sensitivity C-reactive proteinBlood tests used to test for CRP, a marker of inflammation seen in a range of disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, some types of arthritis, autoimmune function/disease, and pelvic inflammatory disease; to test for low-grade systemic inflammation; also used to screen for potential heart disease and cardiovascular disease; hs-CRP is a newer, more sensitive test that offers earlier detection.For people suspected of having chronic or acute inflammation, risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus; people who need a screening tool to monitor inflammation or assess treatment effectiveness.
Serum iron, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) and serum ferritinBlood tests:
  • serum iron test measures the amount of iron in the blood;
  • total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test measures the amount of transferrin, a protein involved in the transfer of iron from the gut to the cells and bone marrow;
  • serum ferritin test measures the amount of iron reserve stored in the body.
Anyone with symptoms of anemia or who has had an abnormal result in the complete blood count (CBC) may be recommended for all three tests; to evaluate protein depletion or malnutrition; to diagnose a range of more unusual iron-related disorders.
LH (luteinizing hormone)Blood test for LH to evaluate pituitary function.Women with irregular periods; people with fertility issues; people with symptoms of pituitary or hypothalamic disorders; women with symptoms of ovarian disease; girls with delayed or advanced sexual maturation.
FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)Blood test for FSH to evaluate pituitary function connected to fertility.Women with irregular periods; people with fertility issues; people with symptoms of pituitary or hypothalamic disorders; women with premature ovarian failure; women with symptoms of disease; women with eating disorders; girls with delayed or advanced sexual maturation.
Blood glucoseBlood test to determine amount of glucose (blood sugar) in blood; also used as a screening technique; depending on circumstances may be ordered both fasting and possibly 2 hours after a high-sugar meal.Pregnant women; anyone with symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar); anyone suspected of having diabetes; anyone with eating disorders; diagnosed diabetics use this test to monitor their condition.
InsulinA set of tests (blood and possibly urine) to help diagnose acute or chronic hypoglycemia; to monitor insulin produced by the body; to check for insulin resistance; to determine if a type-2 diabetic needs to start taking insulin injections; and to diagnose insulinomas (islet cell tumors in the pancreas); depending on circumstances may be ordered both fasting and possibly 2 hours after a high-sugar meal; sometimes a C-peptide test is also required.People concerned about or suspected of having insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome; people with symptoms of hypoglycemia; people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who may need insulin injections to supplement oral medications; people suspected of having pancreatic disease.
Lipid profileBlood test series which measures total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides; may also include calculated ratio of cholesterol/HDL, or risk scores.Often recommended with routine health exams; also for people with known risk factors for heart disease and/or stroke; people who are already managing cholesterol or heart disease-related issues.
Gastrointestinal (GI) testsThis array of tests involve different methods, and can include:
  • colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy to evaluate health of colon, bowel or large intestine;
  • endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to evaluate condition of liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas;
  • lower GI series to diagnose problems in large intestine;
  • upper endoscopy and upper GI series used to diagnose problems in esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
People with GI complaints and symptoms, or those suspected of GI disorders or diseases, with the specific recommended tests matched accordingly.
Pap (Papanicolaou) testSample tissue smear used to screen for cellular changes indicative of potential for cervical cancer and certain vaginal or uterine infections.Girls and women who are sexually active, and those over the age of 18, recommended annually or as directed by practitioner.

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