8 Important Health Screenings for Women
By Amanda Griffin, DO, Primary Care Physician
Virtua Primary Care – Moorestown at Young Avenue
You’re all about staying fit: jogging, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and even practicing tai chi. But is going to the doctor one of your healthy habits?
Going to your health care provider when you’re well, not just when you’re sick, can help find potential problems early, when they are easier to treat and before they change the course of your life.
Here are essential tests every woman should have:
1. Blood pressure
If your blood pressure is normal (lower than 120/80 mmHg), get it checked at least once every two years. If it is higher, have it measured more regularly.
2. Breast cancer
All women should know the normal characteristics of their breasts, and report changes to their health care provider. The American Cancer Society recommendations for women at average risk are:
- Women between ages 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women ages 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
3. Cervical cancer
Women ages 21 to 29 should have an annual gynecologic exam and a Pap test every three years, as long as the results are normal. Beginning at age 30, women should have an annual GYN and a combined Pap-HPV test every five years, as long as the results are normal. Women 65 and older should ask their health care provider.
4. Colon cancer
All women and men ages 45 and older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years or a sigmoidoscopy every five years. If you have a family history of colon cancer, or a personal history of colon cancer or certain types of polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease, your health care provider may recommend a colon cancer screening prior to age 45. You also may need to get screened more often, and/or get specific tests.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults have their cholesterol checked every four to six years starting at age 20. Those at higher risk may need tests more often.
6. Bone density
Women should get this test at least once beginning at age 65.
The American Diabetes Association recommends blood tests for diabetes beginning at age 45 and every three years afterward. Tests should be done earlier if you have risk factors such as obesity; high cholesterol, triglyceride, or blood pressure levels; gestational diabetes or a family history of the condition.
8. Skin cancer
Know your moles, and make sure your annual health checkups include a skin check. If you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or notice a change in the size or shape of a mole, see a dermatologist.
While routine cancer screenings are important to your health, a healthy lifestyle remains a vital part of disease prevention. Remember to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoid tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and protect yourself from sun exposure.
Like the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By seeing your health care provider on a regular basis, you can stay on track with your screenings and prevent problems down the road.
Schedule your screenings
Virtua Health’s primary and specialty care practices offer in-person and telehealth appointments to help stay fit and on the go. Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment.
Updated March 17, 2021