The United States Preventive Services Task Force is a national body comprised of physicians who make appropriate recommendations for preventive screenings. Recently there have been changes to these recommendations that have caused some questions and confusion for women.
Here are the Available Tests and Appropriate Timing:
If you have any of the following, please check with your physician for recommended screenings, as you made need mammograms more frequently:A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women ages 40 or older have a mammogram screening every 1 to 2 years.
- Have a family history of breast cancer,
- Carry certain genes that increase the risk for breast cancer, or
- Was on a long-term hormone replacement therapy during menopause
Cervical cancer screenings using pap smears is the second most common test done for women. Women used to be advised to get a pap smear every year after becoming sexually active. This recommendation has changed. The current recommendation is for women ages 21 to 65 to get a pap smear every 1 to 3 years.
If you are older than 65 and never had an abnormal pap smear, or if you have had a hysterectomy for a non-cancer related reason, you may not need a pap smear.
Every woman should have a colon cancer screening starting at the age of 50, and every 5 to 10 years after. While there are various tests available for colon cancer, colonoscopies and stool studies are the most common.
Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Talk to your physician about being screened for depression if you feel sad or hopeless or if you take less interest in activities that once previously excited you.
Everyone should be screened for diabetes. It is recommended that women who meet any of the following criteria be screened annually:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a strong family history of diabetes
- Given birth to large babies (9+ pounds)
- Had diabetes during pregnancy
High Blood Pressure
Starting at the age of 18, have your blood pressure checked every 2 years at a doctor’s office. High blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney and eye problems. If caught and treated early, you will lead a normal life with no complications.
Cholesterol screenings can begin as early as the age of 20, depending on your personal and family history. Ask your physician for a cholesterol screening if:
- You smoke
- You are obese
- You have diabetes or high blood pressure
- You have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries
- A man in your family had a heart attack before the age of 50
- A woman in your family had a heart attack before the age of 60
Ask for an osteoporosis screening five years after menopause, or at the age of 65 to make sure your bones are strong.
Get a flu shot every year. If you are 65 or older, get a pneumonia shot. Patients with conditions such as diabetes, asthma or emphysema need a pneumonia shot at a younger age. Also ask your physician about a vaccination for whooping cough, as there have been an increased number of cases in the past years in the United States. It is also recommended that you ask you physician about a shingles vaccination if you had chicken pox when you were a child.
It is important that you talk with your physician to determine the best screening regiment is for you.
About Dr. Neelima Kale:
Dr. Neelima Kale is Board Certified in Family Medicine. Her special interests are Women's Health, Endocrinology and Adolescent Medicine. Dr. Kale sees patients in our Westlake and Rocky River offices.