Prevention | Women's Health
October 29, 2015

Screenings women should ask about at every age

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Use this handy checklist to schedule your health tests.

 

Do you know how often you should get a cervical cancer screening? What about a mammogram? You know it’s important to get tested but you may not know when and how often. Use this guide as an easy checklist on what to ask your doctor at your next appointment.

 

In Your 20s and 30s

Your 20s and 30s are considered your prime years, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune from illnesses or disease. Checkups with your doctor are important, and if you have a family history of disease — such as breast cancer — be sure to ask your doctor about when you should get tested.

Blood pressure test:

  • Get tested at least every two years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80).
  • Get tested once a year if you have blood pressure higher than 120/80.

Cervical cancer screening (Pap test):

  • Get a Pap smear every three years if you are 21 or older and your cervix has not been removed.
  • If you are 30 or older, you can get a Pap test and HPV test together every five years.

Cholesterol test:

  • Starting at age 20, get tested regularly if you are at increased risk for heart disease.
  • Ask your doctor how often you need your cholesterol tested.

Diabetes screening:

  • Get screened if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.

Sexually transmitted diseases:

  • Get tested if you are sexually active. Discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse because you may need more frequent tests.
  • Pregnant women should be tested.

 

In Your 40s and 50s

More tests become routine as you get older, but it’s still important to discuss with your doctor personal factors that may require additional testing, such as family history and lifestyle.

Blood pressure test:

  • Get tested at least every two years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80).
  • Get tested once a year if you have blood pressure higher than 120/80.
  • Discuss treatment with your doctor or nurse if you have blood pressure 140/90 or higher.

Bone mineral density test (osteoporosis screening):

  • At 50, discuss with your doctor or nurse if you are at risk of osteoporosis.

Breast cancer screening (mammogram):

  • Discuss with your doctor or nurse.
  • Organizations offer different guidelines but Vanderbilt experts and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, of which Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a member, recommends yearly screening mammograms, starting at age 40.

Cervical cancer screening (Pap test):

  • Get a Pap smear and HPV test together every five years if your cervix has not been removed.

Cholesterol test:

  • Get a test regularly if you are at increased risk for heart disease.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse how often you need your cholesterol tested.

Colorectal cancer screening:

  • Starting at age 50, get screened for colorectal cancer.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about which screening test is best for you and how often you need it.

Diabetes screening:

  • Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.

Sexually transmitted diseases:

  • Get tested if you are sexually active. Discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse because you may need more frequent tests.
  • Pregnant women should be tested.

 

Editor’s note: Read about new guidelines for screening mammography and what they mean for you.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (for mammography screenings).

To find a women’s health specialist, contact the Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health at 615-343-5700.

To schedule a screening mammogram.

Screening

4 thoughts on “Screenings women should ask about at every age”

  1. Susan Koch says:

    What tests after 60?

    1. Cynthia Manley says:

      Great question! We’ll look into that for a future post. In the meantime, here is a link to a different women’s health screenings checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/lifestyle/healthy-women.html

  2. Sylvia Maharrey says:

    I had breast cancer 3 yrs ago. Do I need to get a digital mammogram,which is better than the regular mammogram machine ?

    1. Cynthia Manley says:

      We encourage you to talk to your own provider about this. Individual risk for recurrence or secondary cancers varies and your health care team can help advise you. Another option would be to consult with our REACH for Survivorship program, which helps to develop a roadmap that would include details like screenings to monitor for recurrence or new cancers based on your individual circumstances. You can learn more about the program at this link: http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/cancersurvivor/

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