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The Most Important Screenings for Women

Prevention

When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. The more you know about your health and risk factors for diseases, the more you can work to prevent and minimize health challenges throughout your life. Here are some of the most important health screenings for women at every age.

Teens – 20s

Blood pressure test

  • Start: 18
  • Frequency: Every year
  • Why: Blood pressure is a major risk factor of heart disease, the leading cause of death among American women.

Pap smear and pelvic exam

  • Start: 21 (or earlier if sexually active)
  • Frequency: Every 3 years (or every 5 years with an HPV test if 30 or older)
  • Why: Checks for abnormalities in the reproductive system, including cervical cancer and abnormal cells that could develop into cancer.

Clinical breast exam

  • Start: 20
  • Frequency: Every 3 years until age 40, then every year
  • Why: A healthcare professional trained to recognize warning signs and abnormalities related to breast cancer can catch things you may miss during your monthly self-check.

Skin exam

  • Start: 20
  • Frequency: Varies based on risk factors, but you should check yourself monthly
  • Why: Important for people with an increased risk of skin cancer

40s

Mammogram

  • Start: 40
  • Frequency: Every 1–2 years
  • Why: Mammograms can detect cancer early and will show changes in the breast up to two years before you or your physician would be able to feel them.

Blood glucose tests

  • Start: 40
  • Frequency: Every 3 years
  • Why: Type 2 diabetes is linked to heart disease, depression, and eating disorders, all more common among women than men.

Lipid panel

  • Start: 45
  • Frequency: Every year
  • Why: A lipid panel is another form of cardiac risk assessment that involves evaluating cholesterol levels.

Hepatitis C test

  • Start: Anyone born between 1945–1965 and anyone who had a c-section before 1992
  • Frequency: Once
  • Why: This group of adults may have been exposed to contaminated blood that wasn’t thoroughly tested. Hepatitis C could wear down the immune system and lead to liver cancer if untreated.

50+

Colonoscopy/flexible sigmoidoscopy

  • Start: 50
  • Frequency: Every 5–10 years
  • Why: Cancers of the colon can actually be prevented by screening, since colon cancer develops first as polyps that can be removed if caught early enough.

Bone density screen

  • Start: 65
  • Frequency: Varies based on bone density and risk factors
  • Why: A bone density scan screens for osteoporosis and also alerts your doctor if you’re at
    increased risk of injury or declining mobility.

The information in this article is intended to be a general overview of important health screenings for women and is not necessarily comprehensive. Individual risk factors are also used to determine the need for screenings as well as their frequency. Consult with your primary care doctor and OBGYN to determine your necessary health screenings. If you are in need of a primary care doctor and/or an OBGYN in Kansas City, use the MyHealthKC Find a Doctor tool to connect with a provider in the Shawnee Mission Health network.