As a French speaker we asked Dr Valerie Druon to answer the common questions French speaking expats ask her about health in Singapore.
How often do I need a PAP test? Do I need to see a gynaecologist for this?
Starting from the age of 21, women are advised to have a pap test (also known as a ‘smear’) every 1-3 years, depending on their sexual activity, their HPV vaccination status (Gardasil), and their lifestyle habits (such as smoking). Between the age of 30-65 yrs, a co-testing PAP test that examines cervical cells and HPV DNA detection is recommended up to every five years. However, an annual to biennial routine gynecological check-up is preferred.
No, you don’t have to visit a gynecologist to receive a PAP cervical cancer test! It is sometimes easier and less less costly to see an experienced family physician. All the doctors at Osler Health are qualified to perform PAP tests and gynecological exams.
I’m spending a lot more time in the sun since moving here. Other than sunscreen, what else should I be doing?
When swimming or spending time outdoors, it is advisable to wear sun-protective clothing such as long-sleeved rash guards, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Depending upon your skin type, whether you’re fair-skinned like those of Nordic descent or have a darker complexion, I recommend getting your moles and skin spots checked regularly, usually at least once a year. However, if you have a history of skin cancer, a lighter complexion, or a family history of skin cancer, you may need to get checked as frequently (even every three months).
Since moving abroad I’m feeling very disconnected and down. Am I depressed?
Depression is a condition where a person experiences persistent feelings of low mood for more than two weeks. This can significantly impact their level of energy, motivation, concentration, and focus, and may also disrupt sleeping and eating patterns. It is common to experience feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and difficulty in adapting to a new and unfamiliar culture. Please remember you are not alone. The doctors at Osler Health are highly experienced in assisting new expats and can offer advice, support and have a network of trusted professionals we may access to support your mental wellbeing. Please jut make an appointment.
How often should I have a breast check?
During a gynecology check-up or pap smear, I usually take the opportunity to conduct a breast examination. I highly recommend getting a breast check at least once a year from 40 years old. Screening mammograms can be arranged during the consultation as per protocol and as indicated.
I’m still getting regular periods, so how do I know when I start menopause?
Perimenopausal symptoms typically involve irregular periods, but it’s possible to experience menopausal symptoms even with a regular menstrual cycles. Common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, low energy, increased anxiety, mood swings, joint pain, lower metabolism and weight gain, dry and thinning hair, and dryness in intimate areas. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please don’t hesitate to come for a chat. We have a lot of information on our website here.
I usually have my yearly health screening back in France in the holidays, but my doctor is unavailable. Can I have it done here, and who should I see for this?
At Osler Health, we provide a health screening service that offers a thorough check-up, including comprehensive blood tests and screenings for mental health, skin, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, vaccination updates, breast checks, and gynecological exams. All our health screenings are tailored to your specific concerns and needs and our approach wis informed by Lifestyle Medicine.
I travel across Asia, what vaccines will I need?
It is highly recommended that all members of the family, including parents and children, keep up-to-date with routine vaccinations and travel vaccinations if traveling to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. Common vaccinations that require updating include Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid vaccines. It’s also important to consider protecting your family with Rabies vaccination. Depending on your itinerary and the level of adventure and exploration you have planned, a travel consultation is recommended. During the consultation, we can discuss protection against dengue, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and traveller’s diarrhea.
What is dengue?
Dengue is a viral illness that is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which are prominent during the rainy season and in areas with stagnant water or near construction sites. Symptoms include high fever, deep pain in bones and muscles, fatigue, headache, and loss of appetite. Dengue can also cause a rash and a decrease in platelet counts, making you susceptible to bleeding from even minor trauma or spontaneously. A blood test is required to confirm if you have dengue and to measure your platelet count. To protect yourself and your family against dengue, it’s recommended to apply and reapply insect repellent every 4-6 hours that typically contains DEET or Picaridin.
I feel tired since arriving in Singapore, could it be my iron?
Absolutely. Women who are of reproductive age are at a higher risk of iron deficiency, with or without anemia. Anemia typically occurs when iron deficiency becomes severe and prolonged. This can be caused by a combination of factors such as low iron intake and heavy menstrual bleeding. Other factors such as mental stress can also contribute to fatigue. It’s important to have a comprehensive discussion and check-up with your doctor to assess the multifactorial causes of your fatigue. It’s worth noting that children and men can also suffer from iron deficiency and other deficiencies, which can contribute to fatigue.
What is osteopenia?
Osteopenia refers to a condition in which there is a decrease in bone density, making the bones more susceptible to fragility and increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis, which is a more severe form of low bone density. Typically, osteopenia occurs after menopause due to the decline in female hormones that support bone density. Nevertheless, there has been a recent observation of a higher incidence of osteopenia among premenopausal women. To promote good bone health, it is essential to ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, engage in regular exercise, limit alcohol consumption, and stopping smoking.
I feel breathless during the haze, what should I do?
In Singapore, the haze can worsen during dry seasons, leading to a higher risk of respiratory difficulties, especially during outdoor activities. If you or your children have a history of asthma, it is essential to be cautious. Before heading out, it is advisable to check the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) as it reflects the air quality levels. Additionally, to manage asthma symptoms, make sure to follow an Asthma Action Plan and use appropriate inhalers as prescribed.