A Guide to Recommended Screenings for Women
It’s no secret that women are often more focused on caring for their families or their careers than they are in making their own health a priority. Furthermore, there is a common misconception that women’s health mostly relates to childbirth and gynecology. The truth is that women have a wide variety of unique health needs during each decade of their life.
Here is a guide to recommended screenings for women during key life stages:
A young woman should have her first gynecologist appointment between the ages of 13 and 15. During her teen years, a gynecological exam will typically include a medical history talk. This is a great opportunity for teenage patients to learn more about caring for their bodies. These exams also include a basic physical and breast exam. An external examination of the genitalia will also be performed in order to check for any swelling, sores, or other issues. An internal examination is usually only necessary if other problems have been discovered. Pap smears are not necessary until the age of 21. STD testing is not necessary unless the gynecologist has reason to believe the patient is or has been sexually active.
20s and 30s
Women between 20 and 30 years of age can use their Body Mass Index (BMI), a simple calculation of body weight in relation to height, to determine whether or not their weight is within a normal, healthy range. Starting at 20 years of age, women should begin getting cholesterol screenings every five years. Women should also have their first Pap test and pelvic exam between 18 and 21 years of age, and subsequently every three years after their initial checkup. Women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer should also begin screenings for ovarian cancer during this time in their lives.
As women age, so do the number of recommended screenings. Women between 40 and 64 years of age should have their blood pressure checked every two years. After age 45, it’s important to have a blood glucose screening. This may be recommended earlier if women have risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity, family history, high blood pressure and inactive lifestyles. Starting at 40 years of age, women should also begin having breast exams and mammograms every one to two years for the prevention and early detection of breast cancer.
50s and 60s
After 50 years of age, women experience an increased likelihood of some health conditions so a few more screenings are recommended. In addition to the exams and screenings conducted in their 40s, women beginning their 50s should be screened for colon cancer. A physician should recommend the frequency of colon cancer screenings, which are based on risk factors, including family and personal medical history and lifestyle–related factors. All women, especially those older than 50 years of age, should notify their physicians of any skin changes, which could be indicative of skin cancer. For women age 65 years and older, bone density screenings for the prevention and/or early detection of osteoporosis becomes extremely important. These screenings may be recommended sooner than age 65 years if a woman possesses applicable risk factors.
This information is provided as general information only. Please note, this information should not substitute a medical checkup or consultation with a physician.
The physicians at East Valley Women’s Medical Group have extensive experience helping patients manage menopause. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.