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15 Medical Tests Every Woman Should Have
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posted by Mel, selected from Caring.com Apr 10, 2010 5:01 pm
1. Cholesterol screening/lipid profile
When to start: Age 20.
How often: Every five years. If testing reveals your levels are high, your doctor will recommend retesting every six months to one year. If you have risk factors for heart disease in your family, the regular cholesterol test may not be specific enough; ask your doctor for an additional test called the lipoprotein subfraction test. It’s more sensitive and checks the size of the cholesterol particles as well as the amount.
2. Blood pressure check
When to start: Any age; best to begin during childhood.
How often: Once a year if readings are normal; your doctor will recommend every six months if readings are high or if you’re taking medication to control hypertension.
3. Diabetes screening
When to start: At the start of pregnancy or at age 45 if you have no risk factors or symptoms. If you’re significantly overweight, have high blood pressure, or have other risk factors for diabetes, such as family history of the disease, it’s a good idea to get tested younger. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, free testing is available at most major chain drugstores.
How often: Every three years
4. Bone density test
When to start: At age 65, when all women should have a DXA. But if you’ve had a hysterectomy or have reached menopause and have risk factors for bone loss such as being thin or having a history of fractures, you should talk to your doctor about being screened now.
How often: Every five years
5. Vitamin D test
When to start: Age 40; sooner if you have signs or risk factors for osteoporosis. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D from the sun, so after age 40 it’s more likely that you’ll become D-deficient. Also, if you have any signs of low bone density, such as a fracture, your doctor will want to test your vitamin D along with your bone density.
How often: Although vitamin D testing isn’t yet required or listed on the official schedule of recommended tests, more and more doctors are recommending it as an annual test after age 45, along with diabetes screening.
6. Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy
When to start: Age 50 for those with no risk factors. If, however, you have a first-degree family member who’s had colon cancer before the age of 50, begin colonoscopy screening when you’re ten years younger than the age at which your family member was diagnosed. If a family member was diagnosed at 45, for example, you should have your first screening at 35.
How often: Flexible sigmoidoscopies should be repeated every five years, and a colonoscopy should be repeated every ten years. A computerized imaging technique called virtual colonoscopy is gaining popularity at some medical centers, but many doctors still consider it experimental and some insurers, including Medicare, don’t cover it.
7. Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
When to start: At age 50; your doctor may suggest it earlier if there’s cause for concern about intestinal conditions.
How often: Yearly after age 50
8. Skin cancer screening
When to start: Any age
How often: Experts recommend conducting a personal “mole check” once a month in the shower to look for unusual growths or changes to existing moles. If you notice anything unusual, call your doctor. Many communities offer free skin cancer screenings, usually held at drug stores or clinics. They’re often held in May, just as the summer season begins and people start to expose more skin.
9. Eye exam and vision screening
When to start: Age 18
How often: Every one to three years between the ages of 18 and 61, says the American Optometric Association; after that, as often as your doctor thinks is necessary depending on what’s happening with your vision. If you have diabetes, you’re at much higher risk for eye problems and should be checked more often.
10. Hearing test (audiogram)
When to start: When you or others notice problems
How often: Hearing tests are voluntary, but the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends hearing tests every ten years for adults up to age 50. After that, experts recommend hearing tests every three years.
11. Thyroid test
When to start: Age 35
How often: The American Thyroid Association recommends a thyroid test every three to five years after the age of 35. Other doctors don’t recommend a thyroid test for midlife adults unless you have symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Many women begin to experience thyroid problems in their 40s and 50s, so if you have any question about whether your thyroid levels are normal, ask your doctor to order tests. After the age of 60, thyroid testing is usually conducted annually.
12. Screening for metabolic syndrome
When to start: Age 50
How often: Every three to five years, along with cholesterol and diabetes screening
13. Pelvic exam and pap smear
When to start: At age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active
How often: Every year, although some doctors will allow you to go two to three years between exams if all your results have been normal.
14. Physical breast exam
When to start: Age 20.
How often: Experts recommend home breast exams once a month; it’s usually best to do them just after your period ends, when breasts aren’t as tender or sore. Women over age 18 should have a doctor perform a breast exam once a year; this is usually done along with the pelvic examination.
When to start: Age 40; however, if your mother or sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, especially if she was younger than 40, experts recommend starting mammograms five to ten years earlier than the age at which your relative was diagnosed.
How often: Every year. (Disregard recent controversy over mammogram frequency until final recommendations are issued.)
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