Women’s Health Screening Updates You Need to Know About

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Women’s health screening has undergone severe scrutiny over the past 25 years, and not a moment too soon. Women’s health issues have been on the back-burner for too long and have been passed over for study up until the last two and a half decades. All that is changing and studies into women’s health are quickly catching up to the times. As a result, many organizations are now showing great interest in getting the word out on the importance of regular screenings. One such organization, healthywomen.org, provides a list of the top diseases women should be screened for:

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Bone mineral density
  3. Glaucoma
  4. Type 2 Diabetes
  5. High blood cholesterol
  6. High blood pressure
  7. Mammogram
  8. Osteoporosis
  9. Colonoscopy
  10. Ovarian Cancer
  11. Endometrial Cancer
  12. Skin Cancer

Women getting a mammogramOne of the most promoted women’s health screenings is breast cancer screening—this has been at the top of the list for many years. Until recently, the American Cancer Society (ACS) used to recommend yearly mammograms for women over 40.  Last year, however, they revised their recommendations to align with the opinions or the medical experts. For women not considered to be in a high risk category, regular mammograms can be delayed until age 50. However, if an abnormality is discovered, mammograms are still needed, regardless of age.

Women who are carriers of the BRCA genetic mutation are considered to be at much higher risk of getting breast cancer. Newest studies do not recommend screening before age 35, as it has no benefit. The reason: early screenings may cause unnecessary exposure to radiation over their lifetime, thereby increasing their chance of radiation-induced breast cancer.

For those women in especially high risk categories, such as those with familial histories of certain diseases, screenings can detect diseases earlier, allowing for earlier intervention and increasing longevity.

The University of Texas and MD Anderson have developed the following recommended schedule for women’s health screenings. The Susan G. Komen foundation, as well as other organizations support this schedule or a variation of it. However, these should be considered recommendations. Discuss other screenings and exams with your doctor, i.e. endometrial, exams for ovarian cancer, lung and skin cancers.

Ages 20 – 29

  • Clinical breast exam every 1-3 years
  • Liquid-based Pap test every 3 years starting at age 21

Ages 30 – 39

  • Clinical breast exam every 1-3 years
  •  Liquid-based Pap test and HPV test every 5 years

Ages 40-49

  • Liquid-based Pap test and HPV test every 5 years

Ages 50-75

  • Mammogram and clinical breast exam every 5 years
  • Liquid-based Pap test and HPV test every five years to check for cervical cancer
    • Not recommended for women age 65 and older
  • Colonoscopy every ten years or virtual colonoscopy every 5 years

All Ages

Women’s health screenings should not be ignored, delayed or skipped. Women should practice self-exams and breast awareness to enable them to notice any changes and report them to their health care professional.