Women’s Health Guide: Screenings by Age

Aside from basic annual dental and optical exams, staying up to date on physicals and screenings is important

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Preventative health care is one of the most vital routines to develop. Aside from the basic annual dental and optical exams, staying up to date on physicals and additional screenings is important. Starting at age 18, there are several screenings recommended for women at various ages and frequencies to maintain health and stay knowledgeable about current conditions. Here are the recommended screenings women should get based on age.*

Continued reading: Our Jan/Feb issue included a feature about how women are disproportionately affected by autoimmune conditions. What’s behind their increasing prevalence, and what does effective treatment look like? Find out here.

*This is a baseline list of preventative care, but a consultation with your health care provider is recommended to know what’s right for you.


18 to 39 Years Old

At your annual appointments, there are several things that should be checked. The following lists screenings to be done annually in this age bracket, as well as additional exams at various frequencies.

Weight and Height

This should be tracked annually at routine physical screenings.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure should be checked every two years. If the top number is from 120 to 139 or the bottom number is from 80 to 89 mmHg, it should be checked annually.

Cholesterol Check

For women with known risk factors for coronary heart disease, screening should start at age 20. Otherwise, screening does not need to start until age 45.

Skin Screening

It is recommended that women perform self-exams regularly for unusual skin developments, but providers may check for skin cancer annually—especially for those who are high risk.

Historical Illness Screenings

Those with known family medical issues will begin screenings for possible high-risk diseases.

Diabetes Screening

A diabetes test is recommended for anyone with a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or above. It is also encouraged for women with a body mass index of over 25 starting at age 35. 

Immunizations

At this age, there are several immunizations that are recommended by medical professionals. Annual flu shots are encouraged. At age 19, women should get the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine if they did not receive it in adolescence. Boosters are encouraged every 10 years. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended as well. For those who have never had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine, two doses are standard. Finally, for women who did not receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a teen or have not completed the series, complete that immunization by age 26.

General Wellness Screening

This should be done annually and may include questions about depression, diet and exercise, and alcohol and tobacco use.

Blood Work

Blood work may be administered to test for a variety of diseases and conditions between ages 18 and 39. These tests may include HDL and LDL cholesterol, complete blood count, basic or complete metabolic panel, thyroid panel, liver enzyme markers, STD tests, and plasma glucose.

Extra Screenings for Women:

Cervical Cancer Screening

Women ages 21 to 29 should get a pap test every three years, but women ages 30 to 65 can either get a pap test every three years or the HPV test every five years.

Breast Examination

Monthly self-exam breast checks should be performed starting at age 18. In this age bracket, medical providers may also do a clinical breast exam. Mammograms do not usually begin before age 40 but may start earlier depending on family history and other risk factors.

STI Screening

Sexually active women should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea until age 25 (and after age 25 for women with new or multiple sex partners), with potential screenings for syphilis and HIV depending on lifestyle and medical history.


40 to 64 Years Old

For this group, some additional screenings are recommended based on increased risk of health issues. They are to be completed at varying frequencies based on medical history, which can range from annual checks to every three years.

Immunizations

The shingles vaccine is a one-time vaccination that should be administered for those ages 50 and above. This series requires two doses separated by two to six months. In addition, get the flu shot annually.

Colorectal Screening 

For those aged 45 to 75, colorectal screening should become routine, but the starting age may vary based on family medical history. Screening tests available include a stool-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), to be done annually; a stool sDNA-FIT test that should be administered every one to three years; a sigmoidoscopy to be conducted every five years (or every 10 years with FIT stool testing done annually); a colonography (or virtual colonoscopy) to be performed every five years; and a colonoscopy that occurs every 10 years.

Osteoporosis Screening

Women over age 50 should have regular bone density exams (DEXA scans).

Lung Cancer Screening

Those aged 50 to 80 with a history of smoking cigarettes or with a current smoking habit should be screened annually.

Extra Screenings for Women:

Mammogram

Women between ages 50 and 75 should receive a mammogram annually or
bi-annually, depending on their risk factors. For women with family history of breast cancer, annual mammograms should begin earlier than the age at which the relative received treatment.

Pelvic Exam

Pap smears should continue every three years until age 65.


65 Years and Older

This age bracket is largely focused on health and wellness maintenance, so preventative care is vital. As with previous screenings, some additional tests should be added to routine medical care for those aged 65 and older.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

This screening should be continued into this age category, completed at varying frequency depending on type of test.

 High-Dose Flu Vaccine

People 65 years and older have access to Fluzone High-Dose, which is recommended for older individuals.

 Height and Weight

Maintaining checks for height and weight during this time in life is important for staying ahead of risk factors for osteoporosis, such as shrinking.

Extra Screenings for Women:

Cervical Cancer Screening

By 65, most women can stop having pap smears, so long as all tests have come back clear in the past 10 years.

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