Focus on blood pressure, cholesterol, breast health, Pap test, bone density, vision, hearing and dental.
Starting at age 21, women should have their blood pressure checked every one to two years. Cholesterol levels should be checked every five years from age 20 and up. Women should have a Pap test for the first time three years after they begin sexual activity, or at age 21, whichever comes first. If a woman is 30 or older, monogamous, and has had three consecutive normal Pap tests, her doctor may recommend that she receive the Pap test every three years. Monthly self-exams are important at all ages to check for cancers. Feel for lumps in the breasts, scan the skin for unusual moles or marks, and check the mouth for lesions.
Women should talk to their doctors about how often they should undergo a full checkup and about when to begin bone-mineral density tests. Starting at age 18, women should undergo a hearing test every ten years until age 50, at which time they should discuss the need for more frequent tests with their doctors. Women should have at least one vision test between the ages of 20 and 39 and then one every two to four years after that. Starting at age 65, women should have their vision tested every one to two years. Women should see the dentist one to two times a year. A tetanus booster shot should be given every ten years.
Focus on sexually transmitted diseases, thyroid health.
Sexually active women who are 25 and younger should be screened annually for chlamydia. Women should talk to their doctors about whether they should be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. Starting at age 35, women should have a thyroid test every five years to evaluate whether their thyroid glands are functioning properly. Women with a family history of breast cancer should be screened.
Focus on mammogram, skin cancers, diabetes.
Starting at age 40, women should have a mammogram performed every one to two years. They should have a health care provider check annually for problem moles or other skin conditions. Women should be tested for diabetes every three years, starting at age 45.
Focus on colon cancer, flu, pneumococcal infections.
Starting at age 50, women should be screened for colon cancer by having a fecal occult blood test (which screens the stools for indications of colon cancer) performed every year; a flexible sigmoidoscopy (which allows a physician to look at the inside of the large intestine from the rectum) every five years; and a double-contrast barium enema every five to ten years (if they have not undergone a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy). Women should undergo a colonoscopy every ten years and a rectal exam every five to ten years. Starting at age 65, women should receive annual influenza vaccinations and a one-time pneumococcal vaccination.
Note: These are general guidelines. Talk to your doctor about the specific screenings and schedules that are right for you.
Source: The National Women’s Health Information Center, a project of the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.