Health Tests Every Woman Needs
Staying healthy is not the most difficult thing you'll ever
do. However, it does take some effort and vigilance. One part of that effort is
getting appropriate screening tests. Screening tests are used to detect
potential health problems when they’re still treatable. They can prevent more
The screening tests you’ll need will change as you age. Once
you start a test, it will likely be required periodically for of the rest of
Tests You Need in Your 20s and 30s
Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear
Regardless of sexual history, women ages 21 and older should
have a Pap smear every three years. The Pap smear looks for signs of cervical
cancer. Your doctor may let you have smears less often after three consecutive
normal Pap tests. This interval can also be extended in older women with a
negative HPV test.
Sexually active women should also be screened for other
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Screening for Breast Cancer
If you have family members with breast cancer, your doctor
will screen you to see if you are at risk for more dangerous types of breast
cancer that are linked to certain genes (BRCA1 or BRCA 2). If you’re at risk,
your doctor may recommend genetic counseling or BRCA testing.
You should have two physicals during your 20s. At each exam,
your doctor should check your:
mass index (BMI)
Your doctor may also ask you questions about:
and drug use
Women ages 20 and older should get a baseline screening for cholesterol
levels and triglycerides if they are at risk for coronary heart disease. After
age 45, screening for cholesterol is very important, as heart disease risk
increases with age.
Blood Pressure Screening
A diagnosis of hypertension, or high blood pressure, is made
if your blood pressure is higher than 140/90. Because high blood pressure can
lead to other complications it should be checked every two years if it’s 120/80
or under, and every year if it’s between 120-139/80-90. If you are diagnosed
with high blood pressure, you should also be screened for diabetes.
Get vision screenings every other year if you wear contacts
or glasses. If you don’t have vision problems, screening may not be necessary.
However, you should see an eye doctor if you any concerns.
You should go to the dentist every year for an exam and
You should get a flu vaccine every year.
You should get one tetanus-diphtheria booster every ten
years. Your first should be sometime after age 19.
If you are below 26, you should consider the HPV vaccine.
If you have never had chickenpox, you should get the
Tests You Need in Your 40s to 60s
The tests you began in your 20s will still be used in your
40s. However the timing of the exams will change. You should:
an eye exam every two years, even if you don’t wear glasses
checked for glaucoma at your eye exam, once you turn 45
physical exams every one to five years
- get a
professional breast exam every year
getting a shingles vaccine after age 60
You will also need several new tests starting in your 40s. These
include the following.
All women should have a mammography to screen for breast
cancer. How often you seek treatment varies by age. The U.S.
Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammograms every other year for
women between 50 and 74 years old. Women younger than 50 should work with their
doctors to determine how often to have mammography, depending on their
individual situation and patient history.
Colon Cancer Screening
Once you turn 50, you should start being screened for colon
cancer. Possible tests include a:
sigmoidoscopy — every five years
— every 10 years
barium enema — every five years
tomographic colonoscopy — every five years
You may need screening more often if you are at high risk of
colon cancer. You should be screened for this until age 75.
Bone Density Test
Women age 65 and older should be screened for osteoporosis. If
you have ever had a fracture, you should have a bone density test once you go
through menopause. You should also have this test if you are under 65 and have
high fracture risk.
According to the American
Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin
cancer each year. To catch it early, check yourself once a month starting at
age 50. You should look for new or suspicious moles. See your
dermatologist once a year for a full-body exam.
People at high risk for skin cancer should begin screening
earlier. These include people who:
- are in
the sun a lot
- have a
family history of skin cancer
- have very fair skin
Tests You Need After Age 65
Timing for screening tests continues to change as you get
older. For example your blood pressure should now be checked yearly.
Your cholesterol should be checked every three to five
years. It should be checked more often if it’s abnormal.
You will also need to add one last screening test to your
An audiogram is a check of your hearing at various pitches
and intensity levels. You may need one once a year.
Other Tests You May Need
In addition to the standard screening tests based on age,
your health may prompt your doctor to order other screening tests. Not all
women will need all of the following tests.
Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in eight women will
experience major depression in their life. If you're concerned about your mood,
ask your doctor for this screening. Your doctor will ask a series of questions
about symptoms, which might include:
of libido or sexual interest
If you are at high risk of diabetes, you may need to be
screened for prediabetes and diabetes starting in your 40s. If your
blood pressure is over 135/80, your doctor may screen you for type 2 diabetes.