Women’s health is a branch of medicine that monitors, diagnoses, and treats conditions that generally affect women’s physical health and emotional wellbeing. Women’s health can include areas of care including birth control, sexual health, female-specific cancers, bladder care, osteoporosis, and so much more. Women need to maintain the following exam schedule and engage in preventative practices to encourage a long and healthy life. Below you can see which exams women should have based on their age group.
20s to 30s
Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear
Every woman over the age of 21 should schedule a Pap smear every three years. A Pap test collects cells from your Cervix and can detect early signs of cervical cancer. Your primary care physician may suggest less frequent Pap smear tests after three consecutive normal results. Doctors may also reduce the frequency of these tests if you’re an older woman who tested negative for HPV.
Breast Cancer Screening
This screening is usually just a clinical exam at this age. However, if your doctor notices breast irregularities or you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need a Mammogram. You may also be at a higher risk if you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA 2 genes. If your doctor discovers you have these genes, they may recommend genetic counseling or BRCA testing.
You should undergo a physical twice in your 20s. Your physician will monitor your physical and mental health. They may provide recommendations or treatments to better your quality of life and remedy minor ailments. These exams may also illuminate serious underlying conditions you weren’t aware of. Then, you can start treatments before it becomes unmanageable.
This is an important test, especially for women who come from families with a history of heart disease. Women 20 and older should get a baseline cholesterol screening to determine if cholesterol levels and triglycerides are normal. If they’re not, you may be at risk of coronary heart disease. This test should be done every 4-6 years. The test is simply a blood test that examines fat levels in your blood.
Blood Pressure Screening
High BP can lead to other health complications. Hypertension screening is highly recommended for adults over 40, but it’s smart to get an early start on monitoring. You should have this screening every two years so you can manage it and avoid diabetes if it rises above 140/90.
Your dentist will clean your teeth and check for cavities and gum disease. This exam can help determine if you’re at risk of developing oral problems and checking for abnormalities in your face, neck, and mouth.
You should keep up on your vaccinations as you age. As you get older, your immune system isn’t able to ward off germs, bacteria, and diseases as easily. You should get your flu vaccination each year, but especially after age 65. You should also get the Tetanus-Diptheria booster every 10 years, starting at age 19. These illnesses can lead to serious health problems like being unable to breathe or swallow. It may also result in death, but the TD shot can help protect you from bacteria. You should also get the HPV vaccine if you’re still under 26, and weren’t adequately vaccinated between ages 11 or 12. You should also consider getting the Varicella vaccine if you’ve never had chickenpox. Adults who never had chickenpox may be at risk for shingles, which typically causes a more severe reaction once contracted.
40s to 60s
Once you hit 40, you should continue the tests you started in your 20s. However, the frequency will differ. Some previous exams that you should have more frequently are:
- Eye exam every two years, even if you don’t wear glasses
- Physical every 1-5 years
- Professional breast exam annually
- Shingles vaccine after 60
There are also some new exams women should be aware of.
You should have a professional conduct a breast exam each year starting in your 40s. Your doctor should conduct a visual and manual check of your breasts to look for differences in size, shape, rashes, dimpling, and lumps. They may also check to see if your nipples produce fluid when they’re squeezed gently.
Women between 50 and 74 should have a mammogram each year. Women under 50 may also need one but that’s up to your doctor’s discretion. You should also conduct regular self-exams and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes.
Colon Cancer Screening
After 50, you should start getting screened for colon cancer. Perhaps sooner if there’s a history of colon cancer in your family. Some common colon cancer screening tests include:
- Annual stool test
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- Computed tomographic colonoscopy every 5 years
Nearly 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. It’s important to catch this early so it can be treated. You should start taking note of new moles at 18. If they continue to change consult your doctor. You might be at an increased risk if you spend a lot of time in the sun, have a family history of skin cancer or fair skin, multiple unusual moles, or a history of blistering sunburns.
65 and Up
At this age, you’ll need old tests more frequently, and a few new ones.
Bone Density Test
You should be screened for Osteoporosis. If you’ve ever had a bone fracture, you should take a bone density test once you go through menopause. If you’re at high risk of fractures you should also take this test.
An audiogram checks your hearing at various pitches and intensities. This test can help discover if you’re experiencing hearing loss.
People over 65 should get the two-part Pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine is safe, but you may experience some side effects. However, it will help prevent death and serious illness caused by Pneumonia.
MD365 Women’s Health Checks
There are several other tests you may need throughout your lifetime. Your healthcare provider can review your medical and family history to better determine, what you’re at risk for and what exams you need. The dedicated physicians at MD365 offer a number of women’s health services to manage your healthcare needs.