Common Women’s Medical Tests and Screenings by Age

These are the most common women's health screenings by age

No one likes blood draws, pap smears and colonoscopies. But these tests are key to detecting serious health conditions and determining risk. Some tests you’ll need throughout your lifetime, while others are limited to certain decades of your life. 

There are some basic guidelines as to what age you should get certain screenings. Keep in mind, your personal health history, family health history, lifestyle and medications you take may overrule these guidelines. And regardless of your age, discuss these tests and issues such as depression, substance use, tobacco use, diet, exercise, domestic abuse and vaccines with your doctor. 

If you need a little help keeping up with screenings and tests, let this fact sheet, based on federal government health recommendations, be a resource for you and loved ones. 
 

Women Ages 18-39

Test Frequency
Physical examination with height and weight Annually
Blood pressure If a woman's blood pressure is 120/80 or under, her blood pressure should be checked at least once every two years. However, if the top number (systolic) ranges between 120 to 139, and/or the bottom number (diastolic) is between 80 and 89 mm Hg, it should be checked annually. It also should be checked at least once a year if she has diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or another condition that can affect her blood pressure, your blood pressure.
Breast Health Women may do a monthly breast self-exam. However, experts do not agree about the benefits of breast self-exams in finding breast cancer or saving lives. A woman should ask her provider about what is best for her. However, providers may perform a clinical breast exam.

Although women in this age group generally are not old enough for screening mammograms, a woman may be a candidate for annual mammograms if her mother or sister had breast cancer at a young age. These women also should begin getting mammograms earlier than the age at which their youngest family member was diagnosed.

A woman who has other risk factors for breast cancer also may be a candidate for a breast ultrasound or MRI scan.

A woman notices a change in her breasts, she should contact her provider immediately.
Cervical cancer screening - pap smear and human papilloma (HPV) test Pap smears begin at age 21. Women ages 21 through 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing is not recommended for this age group.

Women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with either a Pap test every 3 years, or the HPV test every 5 years, unless the woman or her partner switch sexual partners, in which case she should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women who have been treated for precancer should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer. And if a woman has had their uterus and cervix removed (total hysterectomy) and has not been diagnosed with cervical cancer, Pap smears may be unnecessary.
Cholesterol Generally, cholesterol screenings for women begin at age 45, unless there are known risk factors for coronary artery disease. If you have normal cholesterol levels, the screening doesn't need to be repeated for five years, unless there are changes in lifestyle, weight or diet.

However, if a woman has diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or another condition that raises your risk for coronary artery disease, your screenings should begin at age 20 and monitored more often.
Colon Cancer screenings Generally, women in the age group are not old enough for colon cancer screenings. However, women should talk to their provider if there's a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps, or if the woman has inflammatory bowel disease or polyps.
Dental examination and cleaning Women should visit their dentist twice every year for an exam and cleaning. The dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits.
Diabetes (blood sugar and A1C) A blood sugar/diabetes screening may be ordered if your blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or above, body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 (23 for Asians) or have other risk factors for diabetes, such as a first degree relative with diabetes or history of heart disease.
Eye exam Women should get their eyes checked at least every two years if you have vision problems and at least once a year if you have diabetes.
Sexually transmitted infections Women who are sexually active should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea up until age 25. Women 25 years and older should be screened if at high risk. Women between 18 and 79 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C. And depending on a woman's lifestyle and medical history, they also may need to be screened for syphilis and HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
Skin check Providers often begin checking for signs of skin cancer among women in this age group, especially if she's at high risk. Women with a high risk for skin cancer either have a history of skin cancer, close relatives with skin cancer or have a weakened immune system.

 


Women Ages 40-64

Test Frequency
Physical examination with height and weight Annually; Providers should ask women questions about depression; diet and exercise; alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use; and safety issues like installing smoke detectors and using seat belts. They'll also discuss immunizations appropriate for this age group.
Blood Pressure If a woman's blood pressure is 120/80 or under, her blood pressure should be checked at least once every two years. However, if the top number (systolic) ranges between 120 to 139, and/or the bottom number (diastolic) is between 80 and 89 mm Hg, it should be checked annually. It also should be checked at least once a year if she has diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or another condition that can affect her blood pressure, your blood pressure.
Breast Health Women may do a monthly breast self-exam. However, experts do not agree about the benefits of breast self-exams in finding breast cancer or saving lives. A woman should ask her provider about what is best for her. However, providers may perform a clinical breast exam.

Generally, women between 40 and 49 are advised to get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. However, not all experts agree that women should have mammograms when women in their 40s. A woman's provider can guide her as to what's best for her.

Women between 50 and 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on their risk factors. For instance, a woman with a mother or sister who had breast cancer at a younger age should consider annual mammograms. And she should consider beginning mammograms at an earlier age than their youngest family member was diagnosed. Women with other risk factors for breast cancer may be advised to get a breast ultrasound and/or breast MRI in addition to a mammogram.
Cervical cancer screening Women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with either a Pap test every 3 years, or the HPV test every 5 years, unless the woman or her partner switch sexual partners, in which case, she should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women who have been treated for precancer should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer. And if a woman has had her uterus and cervix removed (total hysterectomy) and has not been diagnosed with cervical cancer, Pap smears may be unnecessary.
Cholesterol The recommended age to begin cholesterol screenings is 45 for women with no known risk factors for coronary heart disease and should be checked every 5 years. Cholesterol may need to be checked more often if a woman develops signs/symptoms of coronary artery disease develop or changes her lifestyle, diet, exercise habits or weight. Women also need their cholesterol checked more often if tests suggest that it's higher than normal or if she has a condition such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems.
Colon health Women under 50 can discuss colorectal screenings with their provider. It might be a good idea to begin screenings earlier than 50 if a woman is high risk for colorectal cancer.

Once a woman is 50, her provided will begin recommending colorectal screenings, particularly if a woman has a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps. Women may start screenings earlier than this if she has risk factors for colorectal cancer or a history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps. Here are examples of screenings and frequencies.

- Annual fecal occult blood (stool-based) test
- Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Every three years, a stool DNA test
- Every five years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Every five years, a double contrast barium enema
- Every five years, a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
- Every 10 years, a colonoscopy—a woman may need a colonoscopy more often if she has an inflammatory bowel disorder, a personal history of adenomatous polyps or family history of colorectal disease.
Dental examination and cleaning Women should visit their dentist twice every year for an exam and cleaning. A dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits.
Diabetes Once a woman hits 45, she should be screened every 3 years. Screenings may begin earlier if a woman has a BMI over 25 (for Asian woman, it's 23), blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or higher, or have other risk factors for diabetes.
Eye exam Women older than 44 should be screened every 3 years. Women with a BMI over 25 (for Asian women it's 23), she should begin screenings earlier, as well as women with blood pressure above 130/80 mm Hg. Being overweight and having high blood pressure are risk factors for diabetes, which can damage vision.
Lung Cancer Women should have an annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) if they are 55 or older and have a 30 pack-year smoking history, currently smoke or smoked within the last 15 years.
Osteoporosis Women older than 50 with fractures or younger than 65 with risk factors for osteoporosis should be screened using a bone density test (also known as a DEXA scan).
Sexually Transmitted Infections Women between 18 and 79 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C. And depending on a woman's lifestyle and medical history, she may need to be screened for syphilis and HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
Skin Check Providers often begin checking for signs of skin cancer among women in this age group, especially if she's at high risk. Women with a high risk for skin cancer either have a history of skin cancer, close relatives with skin cancer or have a weakened immune system.

Women Ages 65 and Older

Test Frequency
Physical examination with height, weight and body mass index (BMI) Annually. At this age, routine diagnostic tests are no longer recommended unless your provider feels it's needed.
Blood pressure Annually. If the top number (systolic) of a woman's blood pressure is between 120 and 139 or the bottom number (diastolic number) is between 80 and 89 mm Hg or higher and/or she has conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, pressure may be checked more often.
Bone density test Women over age 64 should have a bone density test (DEXA scan) and discuss a bone health lifestyle with their providers.
Breast health screenings Women may do a monthly breast self-exam. However, experts do not agree about the benefits of breast self-exams in finding breast cancer or saving lives. A woman should ask her provider about what is best for her. However, providers may perform a clinical breast exam.

Women between 50 and 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on their risk factors. For instance, a woman with a mother or sister who had breast cancer at a younger age should consider annual mammograms. And they should consider beginning mammograms at an earlier age than when their youngest family member was diagnosed. If a woman has other risk factors for breast cancer, she may be advised to get a breast ultrasound and/or breast MRI in addition to a mammogram.

Women older than 75 should consult their provider regarding mammograms, as physician opinions vary as to whether or not women older than 75 benefit from mammograms.
Cervical cancer screening After age 65, most women who have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer or precancer can stop having Pap smears if they have had three negative tests within the past 10 years.
Cholesterol For women with normal cholesterol levels, cholesterol needs to be checked at least every five years. However, if a woman has conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, she may need to be checked more often.
Colon health screenings Women in this age group are screened for colon health. Here are examples of screenings and frequencies.

- Annual fecal occult blood (stool-based) test
- Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Every three years, a stool DNA test
- Every five years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Every five years, a double contrast barium enema
- Every five years, a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
- Every 10 years, a colonoscopy—a woman may need a colonoscopy more often if she has an inflammatory bowel disorder, a personal history of adenomatous polyps or family history of colorectal disease.
Dental examination and cleaning Women should visit their dentist twice every year for an exam and cleaning. A dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits.
Diabetes Women 65 or older in good health should be screened for diabetes every 3 years. If a woman is overweight, has high blood pressure or other risk factors for diabetes, she may be screened more often.
Eye exam At this point, women should have eye exams 1 to 2 years, unless they have diabetes, in which their eye exams should be annual.
Hearing test Women experiencing symptoms of hearing loss should be tested.
Lung cancer Women should have an annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) if they are 55 or older and have a 30 pack-year smoking history, currently smoke or smoked within the last 15 years.
Sexually transmitted infections Women between 18 and 79 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C. And depending on a woman's lifestyle and medical history, they also may need to be screened for syphilis and HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
Skin check A provider may check a woman's skin for signs of skin cancer, especially if she's high-risk, which includes women with a history of skin cancer, close relatives with skin cancer or a weakened immune system.

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