Good health begins with preventive care. As many of my healthcare colleagues will tell you, a cup of prevention can be worth a pound of cure. The goal of preventative care is to monitor for undesirable illnesses and health issues to keep them from becoming severe or unmanageable. For example, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. However, it is largely treatable if caught early.
Why Screenings Matter
Less than half of adults get regular checkups and preventive health screenings according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that women receive at least one preventive care visit per year beginning in adolescence and continuing across the lifespan.
Even though we know that regular screenings are a time commitment and sometimes uncomfortable, they are so much less unpleasant compared to the actual treatment of the illnesses they are designed to catch. Putting off preventive screening results in delayed identification and treatment of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. While women postpone or forgo tests for many reasons, some of the common reasons we hear are a lack of time, expensive co-pays, uncomfortable exams, a general feeling of existing good health, a denial of a problem or fear of the results.
Many conditions can develop and progress without any symptoms. For example, high blood pressure, breast cancer and osteoporosis are often called “silent” conditions because they don’t exhibit any signs until they have progressed, sometimes to untreatable stages. Working with a provider to establish a baseline of health will make it easier to notice even small changes later, allowing for the detection of disease before it becomes serious. An annual health checkup is far quicker than long-term treatment for a disease that could have been prevented.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans, as well as Medicaid and Medicare, are required to pay for a variety of services with no deductibles or co-pays. Thanks to advances in technology and techniques, most screenings are relatively pain-free.
Our team helps women of all ages stay healthy. Learn about the services we offer at Ochsner.
Here are the screenings recommended for women by the CDC, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society. Based on your personal risk factors, family health history, and current symptoms, a provider may recommend you have some screenings earlier, later, or more frequently.
Age 18 to 29
Blood Pressure: Get screened at least every two years if you have normal blood pressure (below 130/85).
Cervical Cancer: Women should get a Pap test every three years beginning at age 21 until age 65.
Cholesterol: Get a baseline test in your 20’s.
Age 30 to 39 — everything above, plus:
HPV: Women should begin testing in conjunction with a PAP test every five years until age 65.
Cervical Cancer: PAP alone continue every three years, PAP and HPV co-testing every five years until age 65.
Cholesterol: Periodic assessment of Cardiovascular Disease risk. Measure levels every five years.
Age 40 to 49— everything above, plus:
Breast Cancer: Get a mammogram starting at age 40 every 1-2 years.
Diabetes: Women with no risk factors should be tested annually beginning at age 45.
Age 50 to 59— everything above, plus:
Coronary Calcium: Have a baseline scan at age 55.
Lung Cancer Screening: Screen adults aged 55-80 with smoking history.
Colorectal Cancer: Begin screenings, and depending on the type of test, stool DNA annually or direct visualization screened every five to 10 years.
Age 60+ — everything above, plus:
Osteoporosis: Have a bone density or DEXA scan every two years starting at age 65.
As humans, we all procrastinate sometimes. But your health is your most valuable asset and making time for prevention is one of the worthiest investments you can make. Trust me – you will be glad you did!