Key Screenings for Women Through the Decades

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Women's health needs are constantly evolving. What isn't changing is the need for proactive preventative screenings. Here’s a checklist of important screenings women need at different phases of life:

All Ages

  • Annual well-women exam – Feel free to discuss anything that’s on your mind – do not be embarrassed! Common topics include: cramps, problems with your menstrual cycle, acne, weight, depression, sex, sexuality, contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Annual physicalAnnual physicals allow your doctor to review any changes that have occurred over the last year and encourage healthy choices and lifestyle. Your doctor will take your weight and height, check your blood pressure and may run lab work.


  • First visit with a gynecologist around age 13This first trip does not necessarily include a pelvic exam but provides an opportunity to establish a relationship with a physician, discuss your cycle and ask questions. Your gynecologist can counsel you on a variety of topics – contraception, HPV vaccination and STI screening/prevention.
  • HPV Vaccination – This vaccine protects individuals against HPV which causes cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females, anal cancer and genital warts in both males and females. Teens and children can receive the HPV vaccination as young as nine years old, but up to age 45.

20s and 30s

  • Pap Smear – You should get a Pap Smear starting at age 21 and continuing every 3 years if testing is normal. In your 30s, a Pap Smear and HPV test is recommended every 5 years. If Pap Smears are abnormal, more frequent screening intervals are recommended.


  • Mammogram – Starting at age 40, annual mammograms are recommended to screen for breast cancer.  Additionally, get in the habit of doing routine self-exams at home to familiarize yourself with how your breasts look and feel. If there’s ever a change, let your doctor know.


  • Colonoscopy – Starting at age 50, a screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years to check for colon cancer. Depending on your family history of colon cancer, you may be offered screening at an earlier age.
  • Bone Density Scan – Starting at age 65 (or sooner) depending on risk factors, your doctor will conduct bone density scans to check for osteoporosis.  

Regardless of age, it’s important for women be proactive about health. And remember – be open with your physician about any symptoms – physical or emotional.

From annual exams to menopause, Ochsner’s OB/GYNs offer the care you need through all stages of your life. Click here to find an OB/GYN for you!