Women should make time for healthy habits like regular exercise, stress management, and choosing the right foods. Scheduling routine health screenings, which can detect potential problems early, is one of those habits! Detecting a disease early can prevent complications and improve your quality of life.
Here are the essential screenings and tests every woman should include in their healthy living routine!
Pelvic Exam/Pap Smear
Beginning at age 21, women should have this swab test once a year to identify potential signs of cervical cancer. During the Pap smear test, your doctor uses a speculum to widen the vaginal canal, takes cells from the cervix with a small brush, and examines those cells for changes that may lead to cervical cancer.
If you’re 30 or older, you can have the test every five years if you combine it with a screen for HPV, which is an STI that can lead to cervical cancer.
Blood Pressure Screening
The American Heart Association (AHA) says that if your blood pressure is below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is the ideal reading, you should have it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. For adults ages 40 or older, African Americans, or those with conditions like obesity that put them at increased risk for hypertension, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends annual screening.
If you’re 20 or older, your cholesterol should be measured at least once every five years. Your total cholesterol levels should ideally be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl); a borderline high reading is between 200 and 239 mg/dl. If you are at risk for heart disease or stroke, plan with your doctor how often you should have this blood test.
Colon cancer screening, which can be done at a doctor’s office or hospital, should start at age 50. You’ll have either a sigmoidoscopy, in which a lighted tube and camera are inserted in the anus to examine the lower colon, or a colonoscopy, in which a longer tube examines the entire colon. Unless a problem is found or you have a greater risk of colon cancer, a sigmoidoscopy is repeated every five years, and a colonoscopy every ten years.
A mammogram, which screens for breast cancer, involves compressing the breast between plates so that X-ray images can be captured. There has long been discussion about when and how often a woman should have them, given that the risk for breast cancer increases as you age, and the false positives from frequent screening might do more harm than good. The most recent guidelines from the USPSTF recommend that starting at age 50, women should have a mammogram every two years. The American Cancer Society, however, says that women should start annual screenings at age 45 and can then switch to a biannual mammogram at age 55. If you have a family history of the disease or other concerns, talk to your doctor about starting annual screening earlier.
Bone Density Screening
Women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test at age 65. Those with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as fractures or low body weight, should be screened earlier. For this test, called a DEXA scan, you lie on a table while a low-dose X-ray machine captures images of your bones. The frequency of this screening varies depending on bone density and other risk factors.
If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to screen for cancer and other health issues, South Avenue Women’s Services can help. We offer gynecology exams and mammograms to women of all ages. Our professional staff will provide the best consultations and support you need to make informed decisions about your health and body.
Contact us at (585)271-3850 to schedule an appointment with the caring physicians at South Avenue Women’s Services today!