There are important screenings every woman should prioritize for her health. We’ll break down which ones, when to receive them, and why they’re important to women’s health.
Cervical Cancer Screenings
When? Starting at age 21, continuing to age 65.
Why? Regular Pap tests help reduce the number of new cervical cancer cases and cervical cancer deaths by 80%, according to the National Cancer Institute. Screenings also help detect cervical cancer before it becomes larger or spreads to other tissues. This allows providers to start treatment while cancer is at its earliest and most treatable stages.
When? Starting at age 65, but some women’s providers may recommend starting earlier.
Why? Osteoporosis is common in women, especially as estrogen levels drop after menopause. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans measure bone density, which help providers diagnose and treat osteoporosis.
When? Starting at age 40, unless recommended otherwise by a provider.
Why? Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women; 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with it in her lifetime. Similar to cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings allow providers to identify and treat cancers during their earlier stages.
When? Once a year.
Why? A well-woman visit carries all the same benefits as a visit to your primary care provider but they also help monitor your reproductive health. During a well woman exam, your provider will perform a pelvic exam to check that your internal organs are normal. This is not the same as a Pap test, but the two may be done at the same time.
Screenings Everyone Should Receive
It’s recommended that men and women receive some of the same health screenings. Some recommended screenings include:
- Colorectal cancer—Adults of average cancer risk should start annual screenings at age 45. Colonoscopies are the recommended test for screenings, as providers can remove precancerous polyps found during screenings.
- Heart disease—This is done by measuring blood pressure and cholesterol at least once every 2 years, which are often done during an annual wellness check.
- Lung cancer—If you smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, have a 20 year-pack history, and are between the ages of 50 and 80, you may qualify for a low-dose CT scan for lung cancer screening.