February 26, 2020
When women think of adopting good health habits, they likely think of things like getting regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet. But just as important, are the preventive health screenings coordinated by your primary care provider. Many women choose a provider in internal medicine, a medical specialty focused on the care of adults age 18 and older.
Below are 7 essential screenings health-care providers recommend for most women. These screenings can detect potential health issues like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis, early—when easier to treat. This leads to better long-term health for you. Of course every woman’s health picture is different, and needed screenings will depend on your age, family history, and your own health history. Talk with your provider about which screening tests are appropriate for you.
The American Heart Association recommends you get your blood pressure checked every two years, beginning at age 20. Women 40 years of age and older, African American women, and women with risks such as obesity and diabetes should be screened annually.
High cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Most adults should have the simple blood test used to assess cholesterol every 4 to 6 years.
A fasting glucose test is used determine if you have diabetes or prediabetes. This blood test checks your blood sugar levels after not having anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours before the test.
A Pap (Papanicolaou) test, also called a Pap smear, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer. The procedure involves collecting cells from your cervix. From age 21 to 30, women should have a Pap test every three years. After age 30, a Pap, combined with HPV (Human Papillomavirus) screening is recommended every 5 years.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women at average risk for breast cancer begin having yearly mammograms by age 45, or as early as age 40 if they choose. At age 55, the ACS says women should have the choice of switching to screening every two years or continuing yearly mammograms. Women with a family history of breast cancer should talk to their provider about when to start mammography.
The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam) with either a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Starting at age 65, women should have a bone density test called a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA/DEXA) scan of the hip, spine, and wrist to assess their risk for osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that can lead to fractures. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as fractures or low body weight, should be screened earlier.