Being a woman has its perks, like having the opportunity to bring new life into this world and, on average, living longer than men. However, being a woman also puts us at a higher risk for certain diseases, including heart disease and some cancers. In fact, according to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States. Many of these diseases, though, can be prevented or caught early enough to treat with advanced screening tools. Of course, not all women are the same and there are certain factors that will put some women more at risk than others. One of the greatest factors for determining our risk of disease, other than genetics, is age.
Here is a breakdown of the most important screenings for women, by age.
The first time we see a provider to address women’s health is in early adulthood. It is recommended to begin seeing a gynecologist or family practice physician around the age of 18 to begin cervical cancer screening, breast exams and STD tests, according to Harvard Health. These screenings will continue throughout a woman’s reproductive years and are recommended annually. While conducting women’s health screenings, a gynecologist or physician will also check blood pressure and do a lipid profile. A lipid profile checks total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, all of which indicate the health of your heart. Lastly, throughout early adulthood, it is important for women to see a dermatologist for a skin cancer evaluation. A dermatologist will determine the frequency at which you should be screened.
As we advance in age, so does our risk for certain cancers, including breast and colon cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, women have the option to begin breast cancer screening with mammography at the age of 40. By the age of 45, women should get a mammogram at least once a year. The American Cancer Society also recommends that women begin getting screened for colon cancer at the age of 45. This test should be done regularly until the age of 75.
Women should continue their annual blood pressure screenings and lipid profiles to ensure good heart health. If your blood pressure gets too high, a provider will recommend a diabetes screening.
By the age of 55, women should begin lung cancer screening using a low-dose CT scan if they have quit smoking within the last 15 years, according to Harvard Health.
Once women experience menopause, bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, becomes a serious concern. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), when a woman goes through menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly, which leads to bone loss. In fact, 50% of women over the age of 50 will have a bone break caused by osteoporosis, according to NOF. A bone density screening should be done around the age of 65 and continue thereafter based on the recommendation of the provider. Women should continue blood pressure screening and lipid profile screening throughout their late adult years.
Aging isn’t always an easy process, and with it, come new risks and concerns. The key to staying healthy throughout the aging process is prevention and early detection. Make sure to find a provider who is with you every step of the way.