Screening Tests for Women

Screening tests are designed to detect hidden disease in otherwise healthy people. Which ones you should have aren't set in stone—experts often disagree on when to start having screening tests, how often they should be performed, and when to stop.

A good guide comes from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts. Its recommendations help define high-quality preventive health care for Americans.

Keep in mind that the benefits and risks of screening tests and procedures change as you get older. Your doctor can help you tailor the recommendations below based on your goals of care, personal and family health history, age, and life expectancy.

Test

Recommendation

Blood pressure

Have your blood pressured at least every once every two years if it is in the healthy range (under 120/80) or once a year if it is above normal (between 120/80 and 139/89).

Bone density

Get this test at least once at age 65 or after. Talk to your doctor or nurse about getting tested if you’re younger than 65 and about repeat testing.

Breast cancer

Mammography every two years for women ages 50-74. If you are 75 or older, ask your doctor or nurse if you need to continue having mammograms.

Cervical cancer

A Pap test is recommended every three years for women 21-65 who have a cervix. At age 30 a pap test and HPV test every 5 years is an option. If you are 65 or older, ask your doctor or nurse if you need to keep having Pap tests.

Colorectal cancer

Recommended for women ages 50-75. Talk to your doctor about which screening test, (fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy) or combination of tests, is best for you and how often you need it and if you should continue having these tests after 75.

Diabetes screening

Get tested for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.

HIV/AIDS

Get tested for HIV/AIDS at least once after age 20, or earlier if you are at high risk for being infected by the human immunodeficiency virus. Discuss further testing with your doctor.

Lipid profile (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides)

Starting at age 20, women at increased risk for developing heart disease should have regular cholesterol tests.

Lung cancer

Annual testing with low-dose computed tomography between ages 55 and 80 if you have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

Sexually transmitted infections (Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis)

Get tested for chlamydia yearly through age 24 if you are sexually active or pregnant. After age 25, get tested for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases if you are at increased risk for getting a sexually transmitted infection.

Screening Tests for Women Articles

Test may someday help predict diabetes risk

A new test called lipoprotein insulin resistance may more accurately predict whether a woman will develop type 2 diabetes than existing methods of assessing risk, such as family history of the disease, body mass index, and blood glucose levels. The test can pick up on signs of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes, before a woman has an abnormal glucose test. (Locked) More »

Should you still have mammograms after age 75?

Women ages 75 or older who are trying to decide whether to continue having screening mammograms should consider their life expectancy and their willingness to undergo treatment if breast cancer is detected. (Locked) More »

The family history of cancer

Family history can be one of the first lines of defense in preventing cancer. Knowing the detailed history of cancer on both sides of a man’s family can protect him, and even his children, by preventing cancers before they develop and helping to diagnose cancers early. (Locked) More »

Screening tests you probably don’t need

Expert groups don’t advise some widely offered tests for screening generally healthy people because they may lead to unnecessary procedures. Women are advised to develop a personal screening schedule with their doctors. More »

Top screenings to avoid cancer

Getting routine cancer screenings can help find cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. Several screenings are recommended for people at average risk for cancer, such as colonoscopy for men and women and mammograms and Pap smears for women. Some screenings are not recommended routinely, but may be important, such as low-dose computed tomography to detect early signs of lung cancer, or a visual skin exam by a doctor to screen for skin cancer. (Locked) More »

A new look at colon cancer screening

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most common cancer in men. Screening tests to help find and often remove polyps before they become cancer are recommended for men ages 50 to 75, yet many avoid them. To help highlight the urgency for regular colon cancer screenings, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued updated recommendations and described tests that might be a better option than an invasive colonoscopy, especially for lower-risk men. More »