Suggested Screenings

Because it all begins with a healthy woman, these are the tests you should discuss with your doctor. The tests you need depend on your age, health and your risk factors. Risk factors might include family history, such as having a close relative with cancer, and lifestyle issues, such as smoking. Here’s a list of screenings every woman may need at some point in her life. However, depending on your personal risk factors and family medical history, your health care provider may recommend additional or more frequent screenings.

Blood Glucose

Get a blood glucose test every three years starting at age 45 to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes. Before age 45, you may need to have your blood glucose levels tested if you have symptoms of diabetes or several risk factors. The range of normal test results can vary, but generally a test result of 100 mg/dL or higher indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Blood Pressure

Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked every two years. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to heart attack and stroke. Ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Make this part of your yearly physical.

Body Mass Index

Body mass index (BMI) is a more accurate measurement of overweight or obesity, and calculates body fat based on your height and weight. The higher the BMI the more at-risk you are for developing certain conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. A BMI of less than 25 and a waist circumference below 35 inches is desirable for overall health. There are several BMI calculators online, or you can download one on your smartphone.

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Test

A bone mineral density test is the best way to assess your bone health and monitor your risk of low bone mass or osteoporosis, a disease that causes your bones to become brittle and prone to breakage. Women age 65 and older should be screened routinely for osteoporosis; or beginning at age 60 for women who are at increased risk for low bone mass or osteopathic fractures.

Cholesterol

To protect against heart disease and other chronic illnesses, it’s important to monitor your cholesterol levels. Have your cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at age 20. The ideal level is below 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) for total cholesterol.

Clinical breast exam (CBE)

A CBE is a simple physical exam performed by a health professional to identify changes and abnormalities in the breast. A CBE screening should take place every three years beginning at age 20, then every year after age 40. Make this part of your yearly physical.

Mammogram

The American Cancer Society recommends that beginning at age 40; all women should get a mammogram every one to two years. Some women with a family history of cancer and increased risk for developing breast cancer might need to start even earlier. Speak with your health care provider about your risk, as well as when and what screening is best for you.

Skin Cancer Screening

As part of your routine physical each year, your doctor should perform a skin examination to identify any abnormal moles or growths. In addition, you should routinely check your skin (everywhere on your body – including your scalp!).

Pelvic Exam and Pap Test

A pelvic exam should be part of your yearly physical and will help your medical provider evaluate the size of your vagina, uterus, cervix and ovaries, as well as help detect abnormalities, sexually transmitted diseases or cancer. Pap tests should begin within three years after becoming sexually active or at 21 years of age, whichever happens first. Women who have a family history of cancer, who have been diagnosed with HPV or who are at an increased risk for developing cervical cancer, should follow their health care provider’s advice about checkups.

Rectal Exam

Beginning at age 50, a rectal exam should be performed as part of your yearly physical. If needed, your health care provider may schedule you to undergo a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy allows the physician to exam the lower part of your colon or rectum, where a colonoscopy procedure allows your physician to examine your entire colon.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases can make it hard to get pregnant, may affect your baby and can cause other health problems. You should be screened for Chlamydia if you are 24 or younger and sexually active. If you’re older, talk with your health care provider.

You know your body better than anyone. Always tell your health care provider about any changes in your health. Ask them about being checked for any condition you are concerned about, not just the ones listed here.