As a woman, your health needs are constantly evolving. When we get older, the hormones in our bodies begin to change as well as our metabolism. This can change the way we look and feel, as well as how susceptible we are to certain types of diseases and health conditions. However, one thing that stays the same no matter your age is the need for proactive preventative screenings.
If certain health issues like breast cancer and osteoporosis don’t run in your family, you may not be aware of the types of tests that screen for these conditions. The checklist below lays out the preventative health screenings that every woman should perform, as well as the recommended frequency.
Regular health screenings accomplish two goals. They create a consistent record of the state of your health which doctors can refer back to and expand upon. Regular screenings also ensure that any potential problems or issues are detected early before they begin to impact your health more noticeably and are harder to treat or cure. Here is the checklist of important screenings that all women should be aware of during the different phases of their lives.
All Ages: Annual Well-Woman Exam
The well-woman exam is an annual preventive screening of breast and gynecological diseases. This is the time for you 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).
All Ages: Annual Physical
Annual 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.
- The first visit with a gynecologist should be around age 13. This first trip does not necessarily include a pelvic exam but provides an opportunity to establish a relationship with a physician, discuss the menstrual cycle and ask questions. Your gynecologist can counsel you on a variety of topics – contraception, HPV vaccination and STI screening/prevention.
- HPV Vaccination is a 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.
20’s and 30’s
- Pap Smear starting at age 21 and continuing every three years if testing is normal. In your 30s, a Pap Smear and HPV test are recommended every five 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 to be proactive about their health. And remember – you can be open with your physician about any symptoms, whether they are physical or emotional. Establishing a trusting relationship with your healthcare providers will help you feel confident in the care you are receiving and will make keeping up with appointments that much easier and more comfortable. We are here to support you through all of life’s journeys while making sure you feel great along the way!
Our team helps women of all ages stay healthy. Learn about the services we offer at Ochsner.