8 Important Health Screenings for Women
If you are a woman between the ages of 18-65, chances are you have had some kind of well-woman visit or exam (we hope!). In addition to your annual wellness appointments, there are certain screenings that you will need to schedule depending on your age.
“Screenings give us a chance to detect certain cancers and diseases early on so that we can start treatment or take preventative measures,” says Roberto Madrid MD vice president Medical Group Operations, PIH Health Physicians. “Early detection can save lives.”
Here are 8 important health screenings for every woman.
1. Mammogram – Can start at age 40 or sooner annually if you are at risk, i.e. family history/genetics. This is an examination of the breast tissue to detect abnormalities via compressing the breast between plates where an X-ray image is captured.
2. Pap Smear – starts at age 21 (or when the woman becomes sexually active) to 64 every three to five years if normal, per doctor recommendation. Pap smears consist of taking cells from the cervix via a tiny swab/brush to check for abnormal/cancerous cells. Women 30 or over can combine this screening with the HPV screening, an STD that leads to cervical cancer, and can increase the timeframe to once every five years.
3. Colonoscopy – begins at age 50 and then every 10 years for average risk individuals; every three to five years for high risk individuals. A colonoscopy consists of an examination of the colon for any abnormalities that can lead to colon cancer. Further testing may be required if abnormalities are found.
4. Blood pressure – is age dependent and as you get older, your baseline may creep up which is normal. It is important to see your doctor to determine if your blood pressure reading is normal based on your age or if it is something that would require attention. If your blood pressure is out of normal range, your doctor can prescribe medications and may suggest lifestyle changes to help control it. High blood pressure often comes with no symptoms so it is important to have it checked at least once per year.
5. Cholesterol – starts at age 40, every four to five years or more often if you are at risk for heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol levels are tested via a blood test while fasting. If high cholesterol is detected your doctor will also prescribe medication and suggest lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthier eating habits.
6. Blood Glucose Test – starts at age 45 every three years to screen for diabetes or prediabetes. A fasting glucose reading of 100 mg/dl or more suggests prediabetes. A reading of 126 mg/dl or more suggests diabetes. Your doctor will go over results with you and will discuss next steps.
7. Skin Exam – once per month, you should examine your skin for any abnormalities such as new or growing birthmarks, skin spots, etc. If you have a family history of skin cancer or have had a great amount of sun exposure, make an appointment with a dermatologist for a consultation.
8. Bone Density Screening – starts at age 65, women should get screened for osteoporosis via a bone density scanner. For those with bone fractures or low body weight, screening may be needed sooner.
Staying on track with these screenings and your annual wellness checkups are an important factor to living a longer, healthier life. Talk to your doctor about what screenings are needed at your age and if you are up-to-date. An early detection can save your life. For more information or to find a local doctor near you, visit: PIHHealth.org/Find-a-doctor.