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Health Screening Guidelines for Women

June 11, 2015

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Even with your busy schedule, it’s important to make time to regularly see your doctor. Maintaining yearly check-ups and adhering to health screening guidelines can be the difference maker in preventing health problems or treating them early. 

So, how can you make sure you’re getting the health screenings you need? Talk to your doctor about the following screening guidelines for women and create a schedule depending on your age and risk factors. 

What types of health screenings do women under 40 regularly need?

  • Regular physical: Even if you don’t currently have any health complaints, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor once a year for a basic physical. 
  • Pap smear: While it used to be recommended for sexually active women or women over 21 to get an annual pap smear, the exam frequency has changed. Now, most doctors recommend getting a pap smear every three to five years, depending on your age and past test results.
  • Clinical breast exam: Similarly, yearly breast exams for women under 40 are now only recommended every two to three years. However, you should still perform regular breast self-exams at home. 
  • Blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked every year or every other year (depending on your risk factors), either by your primary care physician during your physical or at your local pharmacy. 
  • Cholesterol: You doctor may want to begin regularly checking your cholesterol as early as age 20 if you are overweight or have a history of high cholesterol in your family. However, if you don’t have any risk factors, regular cholesterol tests will likely start in your mid-thirties and repeat every five years.
  • HPV and STD tests: Unless you have reason to believe you may have come in contact with a sexually transmitted disease, your doctor will probably recommend screening for HPV and other STDs on the same schedule as your pap smears.
  • Diabetes: Depending on your blood pressure or body mass index, your doctor may want you to get screened for diabetes in your early twenties. 

What types of health screenings do women over 40 regularly need?

  • Mammogram: Starting at age 40, it is recommended women have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer every one to two years. 
  • Osteoporosis screening: This test is recommended for women to get at least once after the age of 65. 
  • Colorectal cancer: Starting at age 50, women should begin getting screened for colorectal cancer, typically with a colonoscopy. 

As always, talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have about your current or future health. And remember, the typical screening schedule may vary depending on your specific health situation, which is why maintaining regularly scheduled physicals is so important. 

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