25 Common Diagnostic Tests

medical tests for women


Medical Tests For Women


Gynecological Tests
Scans and X-Rays
Special Pregnancy Tests
Heart Tests
Other Examinations

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The Female Body
25 Medical Tests For Women

A medical test is any kind of medical examination performed to diagnose or detect a disease. Many are simple to perform and only require the use of standard equipment in any doctor’s office. While others, are more complex and require the use of very expensive equipment and sterile operating theatres. The following is a list of commonly performed medical tests:

Gynecological Tests

Pelvic Examination
A pelvic examination is the physical evaluation of a woman's reproductive organs. That is, the doctor checks the vagina, vulva, cervix, womb (uterus), fallopian tubes and ovaries. A pelvic exam can be done as part of a routine checkup or it may be done where the patient complains of a specific problem 'down there'. The doctor will examine the external area looking for any abnormalities like skin growths, discoloration and abnormal discharges. He will then examine the area internally, using a speculum to hold the vagina open. While slightly uncomfortable, an internal examination is rarely painful, even for girls who are still virgins and have never used a tampon.

A hysteroscopy is procedure used to diagnose and treat problems inside the uterus. During the procedure a clinician inserts a thin, lighted tube called a hysteroscope through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus. This instrument can be used both to diagnose and treat problems like abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can also help gynecologists locate uterine polyps and fibroids as well help evaluate the cause of infertility.

Pap Smear Test
A Pap test, checks for cell changes and abnormalities in the cervix. It is used to screen for signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. Occasionally a Pap test will reveal the presence of Trichomoniasis, a type of sexually transmitted disease.

A colposcopy is a test that uses a mounted binocular-like instrument to view the vagina and cervix. It is usually done after an abnormal Pap smear test result. Occasionally it is done to investigate abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Laparoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to directly observe a woman's ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus. It is also called keyhole surgery, bandaid surgery and minimally invasive surgery (MIS). It is often used to diagnose gynecological conditions such as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy and causes of pelvic pain. During the procedure, small incisions are made in the belly and a long lighted instrument that acts like a periscope is inserted and the internal organs can be investigated. Other surgical instruments can also be inserted and used. In such a way, laparoscopy can be used both to diagnose and treat certain conditions.

Laparotomy is a type of abdominal surgery that is use to explore, diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. The difference between laparoscopy and laparotomy is the size of the incision. Laparotomy requires a larger incision which needs longer to heal and tends to leave a scar. Laparotomy is usually only considered where the surgeon feels he needs a better view of the internal organs to diagnose or treat a condition. It can be used for ectopic pregnancies, ovarian cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and appendicitis. Occasionally it is used to treat endometriosis, fibroids and ovary removal (type of hysterectomy).

A mammogram is a special X-ray examination of the breast that is used to diagnose malignant cancerous tumors or breast abnormalities. When it is used to screen for breast cancer symptoms in women who show no signs, it is called a screening mammogram.

STD Testing
STD tests are a set of tests you can have to screen for the presence of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Scans And X-Rays

MRI Scan
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that takes pictures of the inside of the body. The main advantage of MRI's over X-rays or CT scans is that they do not involve radiation or the use of contrast dyes. Furthermore, because they are particularly good at spotting problems in soft tissue they have supplanted x-rays in evaluating strokes, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis. An MRI is also used to test for certain breast disorders.

CT Scan
A CT scan is a diagnostic test that combines the use of a computer and an X-ray machine to produce images of the inside of the body. Unlike a regular X-ray which only shows a few levels of tissues, the CT scan detects hundreds of levels of density. It has revolutionized the detection of cancer and slow growing tumors; as well as head tumors and stroke.

X-rays are still the most widely used test for taking internal pictures of the body (primarily because it is much cheaper than an MRI or CT scan). X-ray beams pass through your body and are absorbed in different amounts depending on the density of the material they pass through. Denser materials like bone show up as white and the air in your lungs show up as black. Muscles and fat appear as various shades of gray. X-rays are most commonly used to diagnose bone problems such as broken bones, bone fractures, osteoporosis and dental decay.

Ultrasound Scan
An ultrasound scan is a diagnostic test that uses sound waves to create images of internal organs. A handheld device called a transducer is gently rubbed over the skin and images can be seen in a nearby monitor. In addition to confirming a pregnancy, an ultrasound scan can be used to determine the presence of ovarian cysts, fibroids and causes of pelvic pain. It can be used on different parts of the body, to help diagnose various cancers and problems of the breasts, thyroid, kidneys and pancreas. Related: Pregnancy ultrasound scan.

Transvaginal Ultrasound
A transvaginal ultrasound is a specific type of ultrasound used for diagnosing gynecological conditions. Instead of rubbing the transducer (in this case it is called a probe) over the skin, it is inserted into the vagina. The probe sends out sound waves and these waves are reflected as images in a nearby monitor.

Special Pregnancy Tests

An amniocentesis is an invasive test that helps to diagnosis chromosomal abnormalities, fetal infections and possible birth defects. An amniocentesis is usually performed between weeks 16 and 18 of pregnancy, but occasionally as early as weeks 13 or 14 or as late as weeks 23 and 24. It is only usually ordered if routine prenatal tests come back abnormal.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
A CVS test is also used to diagnose chromosome abnormalities and possible birth defects. Its main advantage over an amniocentesis test is that it can be performed earlier in the first trimester (week 10 to 13 of pregnancy).

Fertility Testing
A fertility test is a procedure or test that assesses the ability of a woman to have a baby. There are also fertility tests for men.

Heart Tests

Exercise Stress Test
A stress test refers to a group of heart disease tests which doctors use to evaluate the heart's ability to cope with increased workload. Most commonly doctors use some form of exercise to stress to the heart, such as walking on a treadmill, pedaling a stationary bike or performing arm exercises. See exercise stress test.

An electrocardiogram or ECG is a diagnostic tool which measures the electrical activity of the heart. Interpretation of those results can help diagnosis a wide range of heart diseases. An ECG is most commonly used for diagnosing a heart attack.

An echocardiogram is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure (also known as an 'echo') used for taking detailed images of the heart. It uses ultrasound technology to take images of the heart and surrounding tissues.

Cardiac Catheterization
An invasive test, cardiac catheterization involves inserting a long thin hollow tube into a blood vessel to view the arteries. It is used to diagnose heart disease. Very often the term 'cath' is commonly used to refer to one type of test - the coronary angiography. There are however in fact a number of different catheterization procedures for different purposes.

Other Examinations

Colonoscopy is a medical test to view the inside of your colon. The doctor inserts a flexible instrument called a colonscope through the anus and into the colon. It is used to diagnose causes of rectal bleeding, colon polyps, inflammation (colitis) and colon cancer. Instruments can be passed through the colonscope to remove growths or take a tissue sample for biopsy.

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
A dilation and curettage (D&C) is a surgical procedure, performed under general anesthesia. It involves widening (dilating) the cervix and scraping out the lining of the uterus with a tool called a curette. It is used to diagnose the cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding (caused for example by endometrial cancer, fibroids or endometriosis); although other simpler techniques are more frequently used these days (such as endometrial biopsy). A D&C is also used to remove pregnancy tissue remaining from a miscarriage, childbirth or incomplete abortion.

Endometrial Biopsy
An endometrial biopsy is most commonly performed to test for endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb). It does not require hospitalization and can be carried out in the doctor’s office. During the procedure a thin flexible tube is inserted into the uterus through the vagina. Using suction, a small amount of endometrium is removed through the tube. The suctioning takes about a minute. It may be slightly uncomfortable and cause some menstrual-like cramps. The results are sent to a lab for testing.

Blood Test
A blood test can be used to diagnose or rule out the presence of hundreds of diseases and disorders; including AIDs, hepatitis, cancer, hypoglycemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and thyroid disorders.

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