Behind every successful woman is a bunch of other women in her life cheering her along. Be it your own sisters or the female friendships in your life, sisterhood can be a place of support, solace, and emotional stability. We all know social connections are key to human survival in general, and sisterhood, specifically, can play an important part in women's wellness. In fact, science has shown that female friendships can benefit the health and quality of life of individuals significantly.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, high-placed women tend to have a tight inner circle of female friends—higher and better placement of women in leadership positions is positively impacted by having an inner circle of predominantly female contacts who are connected to many non-overlapping third-party contacts. This female-dominated inner circle helps women by offering information and support regarding challenges they face in male-dominated environments. A study published in Cancer also suggested that women who had larger social ties showed better breast cancer survival, as well as overall survival. Another study by a team at Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Illinois, USA, published in the Journal of Women & Aging, suggested that in response to stress, women tend to befriend other women, and that friendship can help mitigate stress.
We often hesitate to tell our parents or partners about our health concerns, worried about the anxiety and stress that this might cause them. This is exactly where your circle of female companions can come in. Confidantes, cheerleaders, caretakers—there are many roles that the women in our lives fulfill, and the power of this support system that offers a sense of belonging and comfort can help you be more accountable about taking care of your own health—through a buddy system of health checks. Scheduling important health check-ups alongside your sisters can help you to keep track of your health better and with more ease, as the sense of connection and togetherness can encourage a more responsible approach towards keeping up with your health check routines.
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Here are some check-ups you should schedule with your sisters:
1. Pap smear and pelvic examination: A Pap smear or Pap test is aimed at screening for cervical cancer. Cells from your cervix (lower end of the uterus) are collected and examined to check for the presence of any abnormal cells or changes, which can help detect potential malignancy early on to prevent the development or progression of cervical cancer, and improve chances of cure. Pap smears are generally recommended to be done every three years to five years (starting from age 25 according to The Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India), depending on factors such as age. It can also be combined with an HPV (Human papillomavirus) test, or only an HPV test may be done instead of Pap smear. HPV is an STI that may lead to cervical cancer in some cases. HPV vaccinations can help to protect against cervical (as well as vulvar and anal) cancer. It is crucial to get regular pelvic examinations and these associated tests done to maintain proper reproductive and sexual health. So grab your sisters and get those health checks.
2. Breast exam and mammogram: Breast exams and mammograms will help detect abnormal changes and screen for breast cancer. Consult your doctor for recommendations about breast exam procedure, as it can vary depending on factors such as age and family history.
3. Colorectal cancer screening: It is usually recommended to get screened for colorectal cancer from the age of 45, but it may depend on factors such as family history, personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, and lifestyle habits.
Other health checks that you should catch up on with your girl gang include cholesterol tests, blood pressure tests, blood glucose tests, immunisations and general physical examinations. Prevention is always better than cure, and through a buddy system of loving support and caring monitoring, you can look after your sisters' and your own health.