Gynecology and Well Woman Care
When it comes to their families’ health, women make nearly 80 percent of all healthcare decisions. You owe it to yourself to take care of your own health too. If you’re wondering where to begin, the following health screenings are a great start for women of all ages!
Pap Smears and Pelvic Exams
Beginning at age 21, or earlier if you are sexually active, women need to have a pelvic exam and Pap smear every two years to check for abnormalities in the reproductive system. Barring any problems, women age 30 and older need a Pap smear every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row. Your doctor can also screen for sexually transmitted infections.
Mammograms and Breast Exams
Starting at age 20, women should have a clinical breast exam by a doctor at least every three years until age 40, when this should be done annually. Women should also perform a monthly breast self-exam. If you’re unsure how, ask your doctor. Then, beginning at age 40, a woman should have a mammogram – or digital X-ray of the breast – every two years, or more frequently if you’re at risk for breast cancer.
Blood Pressure Screenings
Most people with high blood pressure don’t even know it. Starting at age 18, every woman needs to have her blood pressure checked at least every two years. Ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. To assess their personal risk, women should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at about age 20. The ideal level is below 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) for total cholesterol.
Blood Glucose Tests
Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, with another seven million undiagnosed. That’s why knowing your blood glucose level is key. Women should get a blood glucose test every three years starting at about age 45 to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes – earlier if you have high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes or if you’re overweight. While the range of normal test results may vary, a test result of 100 mg/dL or higher generally indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Colon Cancer Screening
Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. Colon cancer screening tests for women generally start at age 50.
Bone Density Screening
Women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test beginning at age 65. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as having a slender frame or a fractured bone, should be screened earlier. The frequency of this health screening varies based on bone density and risk factors.