11 Health Screening Tests Every Woman Should Have
November 16, 2022
You’re exercising on a regular basis, trying to eat right and even reserving some me-time to relax and recharge during your busy day. That’s great. But are you also getting the health screenings that every woman should have?
Health screenings can detect disease when it’s most treatable, and, in many cases, prevent serious health problems that can develop if a medical condition is left unchecked, says University Hospitals OB/GYN David Biats, DO.
“It’s very important to stay ahead of health screenings so that you can diagnose problems early and get treatment started before any damage to your health begins,” Dr. Biats says.
Which Health Screenings to Get
There are many types of health checks and screens that can be appropriate at different ages. Some are routine and some depend on family history, says Dr. Biats. He recommends women have the following tests:
- Pap and human papilloma virus (HPV) tests. Women should begin having Pap tests at age 21, and the test should be repeated at least every three years, says Dr. Biats. HPV co-testing with Pap should start at age 30 and you should be re-screened at least every five years.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) tests. STDs are often symptomless, meaning you can pass it to your partner or, if pregnant, an unborn child. Dr. Biats says sexual health screenings should begin as soon as you become sexually active, or sooner if possible: “Discussing STDs and pregnancy prevention with your provider is important, even if you are not sexually active. This can be done in very non-invasive fashion and testing can be done if needed.”
- Diabetes screening. Dr. Biats says diabetes screenings should begin at age 35 and should be repeated every three years if you have no risk factors for diabetes. Screening will be earlier or more frequent if you have risk factors such as family history, overweight or obesity, high blood pressure or a history of heart disease.
- Mammogram. The current recommendation is to get your first mammogram starting at age 40 for women with no family history, and to get screened annually after that. Earlier and more frequent mammograms may be recommended for women with a strong family history of breast cancer.
- Skin check. At age 18, check your skin monthly for suspicious moles or color changes, especially if you're fair-skinned or exposed to the sun constantly. Full body yearly skin exams with your dermatologist should begin at age 40.
- Colonoscopy. This test helps finds and removes symptom-less polyps that can develop into colon cancer. Dr. Biats says colorectal screenings should begin at age 45, but you may need to be screened sooner if you have a family history.
- Cholesterol test. Cholesterol screening should begin at age 45 for women with no risk factors and at 20 for those with risk factors. Risk factors include diabetes, heart or kidney disease and some other medical problems.
- Lung cancer screening. Dr. Biats says you should be screening for lung cancer beginning at age 50 if you currently smoke or have a history of smoking.
- Bone density test. The denser your bones, the less likely they are to break. If you have a thin build or other serious risk factors, begin getting tested at age 50. Otherwise, the general guideline is to start by age 65 and repeat at least every three years.
- Hearing test. Impaired hearing affects your mental processes and can hurt your quality of life. Get your hearing tested every 10 years until age 50, then annually after age 60.
- Eye exam. The recommended guidelines for adults are a baseline eye exam at age 18, then every two years until age 60, unless there is a problem such as diabetes. Beginning at age 61, you should get an annual eye exam.
Apart from age-appropriate screenings, Dr. Biats says annual well woman visits are important starting at age 21. During these visits, your provider will check your blood pressure, go over current health concerns, make sure you are up-to-date on vaccinations, and discuss family history, which may trigger earlier screenings if necessary.
Whatever your age or stage of life, prevention is the best medicine. That's why it's important to see your primary care provider for age-appropriate screenings and vaccinations that can prevent disease.
Need to find an OB/GYN? University Hospitals has a large network of women’s health experts throughout the region. Visit OB/GYN & Women's Health Services to learn more and find a provider near you.