May 1st, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic did more than cancel fun activities like weddings, graduations and nights out with friends. It caused many people to put off doctor visits and ignore routine health screenings. In fact, 36% of adults delayed or canceled health care visits due to concerns about exposure to the virus or limited health care services, according to an Urban Institute report.
If you’re a woman who hasn’t kept up with routine medical appointments and health screenings, whether due to the pandemic or for other reasons, now is the time to schedule those appointments. Visiting your primary doctor, OB/GYN and other medical practitioners helps protect your health. Screenings can pick up small, yet significant, changes in your health long before you experience any symptoms. This helps doctors identify health issues early, when they are easier to treat.
The following important health screenings are suggested for women at various ages (based on average risk for any particular disease):
- Mammogram. The American Cancer Society® recommends annual mammograms for women ages 45 to 54. If you prefer, you may begin yearly mammograms at age 40. Women who are 55 and older should have mammograms every two years if prior screenings have been normal or may continue yearly screenings.
- Cervical cancer screening. Pap smears, tests that detect cervical cancer, are recommended every three years for women ages 20 to 29. Women ages 30 through 65 should have a Pap test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years. It’s also important to schedule an annual exam with your OB/GYN.
- Blood pressure screening. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. If you’re 18 to 40, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a blood pressure screening every three to five years, as long as your blood pressure is normal. After age 40, schedule yearly screenings.
- Blood test. Heart disease, anemia, diabetes and other serious conditions may be detected with a yearly blood test. Knowing basic information about your cholesterol, blood sugar, iron and other readings helps keep you healthier.
- Colonoscopy. If you’re 45 or older, it’s time to schedule your first colonoscopy, a screening test that detects colon cancer. Colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years if your first colonoscopy is normal. If anything is found during this screening, you may be told to repeat the test more often.
- Bone density test. This test helps identify osteoporosis, an age-related disease that weakens the bones, making them more likely to break. A bone density test is usually recommended for women at age 65.
- Skin cancer check. Changes in moles or the appearance of new growths may be signs of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you get a full body screening once per year.
- Eye exam. You should get an eye exam at least once in your 20s, twice in your 30s, when you’re 40 and every year or two if you’re 65 or older, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. More frequent eye exams are a must if you wear glasses or contact lenses or have an eye condition or disease.
- Dental exam. Visiting the dentist every six months reduces your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Not only do routine dental visits keep your teeth looking their best, but keeping your gums healthy also helps protect you from other health issues that can be affected by gum disease.
The ages and frequency suggested for many tests are based on general recommendations for people at average risk of a particular condition or disease. If you are at an increased risk, your doctor may suggest you begin testing at an earlier age or have screenings done more frequently. Although these screening recommendations are specifically for women, all health screenings listed with the exception of mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and bone density tests are also recommended for men.
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