There are a number of reasons why it’s important to get those annual and routine health screenings. For starters, it’s one of the best ways to detect hidden diseases in otherwise healthy people. Early detection is crucial for health because when caught early, there’s a greater chance of being able to treat and ultimately cure the ailment. Take breast cancer, as an example. The Canary Foundation reports that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer, when detected in its early stage, is 98%. The same goes for melanoma, otherwise known as the deadliest skin cancer. When melanoma is caught early, the five-year survival rate is about 99%.
As for what routine health screenings women should be receiving in each calendar year, Temple Health suggests that women have annual skin cancer checks, eye exams, dental exams, colonoscopies, and blood tests, among others and depending on age. With so many health screenings to keep track of, here’s a curated list of health screenings for women of different ages and backgrounds.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Pap smears, otherwise known as routine tests that detect cervical cancer, are recommended every three years for women ages 21-29, or earlier if you’re sexually active. This test can be done by an OBG-YN or even your primary care provider during your annual wellness visit. For individuals 30-65, it’s recommended to get both a pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) every 5 years. Along with that, it’s important to see your OBG-YN at least once a year for an annual exam.
Breast Cancer Screening
According to the American Cancer Society, women ages 45-54 should get annual mammograms. Women can receive them as young as 40 if they’d prefer, especially if there’s a family history of breast cancer. For women ages 50-74, Harvard Health Publishing recommends mammograms every two years. For those with abnormal screenings, it’s recommended to consult a doctor about how often to receive a mammogram. Early detection is one of the best ways to treat breast cancer, and getting a mammogram is the first step.
Colonoscopies are tests that detect colon cancer, which the American Cancer Society labels as the third leading cause of cancer-related death. It’s recommended to schedule your first colonoscopy when you’re 45, and if it comes back normal, you’ll need to get tested every 10 years. As for what a colonoscopy looks for: It’s checking for changes in the large intestine, such as irritated tissues, polyps and cancer.
Bone Density Test
These tests are recommended at least once for those aged 65 or older. The purpose of a bone density test is to test for osteoporosis, which is a disease that weakens the bones. A doctor should be consulted about repeat testing. Bone density tests are typically administered by a radiologist.
Blood Pressure Screening
Everyone should be getting a blood pressure screening at least once every two years. It’s conveniently done at your annual wellness check, so no extra appointment or planning is necessary. Most pharmacies also have a blood pressure machine, too. Having abnormally high blood pressure can be an indicator of being at risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
Skin Cancer Check
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends getting a full body screening at least once a year. This screening is essentially looking for moles from head to toe that might be cancerous, noting the size, shape, color and texture. Skin cancer checks are important because melanoma is the most invasive skin cancer, and also has the highest risk of death. Further, these annual exams help catch melanoma early and give patients the highest rate of curing it. Those who should be the most cautious are individuals with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue eyes.
There are many benefits to getting an annual blood test when you go in for your annual wellness exam. These tests can help detect or alert your care team that you might have heart disease, anemia or diabetes, among others. Blood tests can help give insight into your cholesterol, blood sugar and iron. Blood tests are typically ordered through your primary care physician.