Screenings: Maintaining Health For Women At Every Age
Published on 10/28/22
When it comes to health, women have a lot more checkmarks to check off. They not only have to take into account regular health factors that affect them differently but also childbirth and menopause. For example, women are more likely to die after a heart attack than men. Thankfully women are more proactive when it comes to health and prevention. But when it comes to all phases of women’s lives, it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest guidelines for exams and screenings.
The earlier women start, the better. Early patient care is crucial for maintaining positive health outcomes. Addressing overall women’s health in a personal way with individual needs is important to meet her needs and focus on her risks. There are many types of screenings and tests that everyone should prioritize at every stage of life.
First OB visit: starting at the age of 13-17, meeting with an OB-GYN helps young women begin to understand what to expect in future visits and become educated on how to stay healthy at their age. Teenagers don’t necessarily need any exams or a Pap Smear, even if sexually active. Being under 25 means it’s common to have changes in the cells of your cervix which often go away by themselves.
Contraceptive counseling. It’s good to inform teens of the idea of sexual activity and how to take care of their body first and protect themselves. Also to discuss the idea of contraceptives and what to look for in an intimate partner and a healthy relationship.
HPV Vaccine (Human Papillomavirus). The HPV protects against the development of certain cancers. The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine around age 11 or 12.
Sexual Orientation. It’s important that all patients feel comfortable with their healthcare provider to discuss gender desires and sexual orientation in the early years, if they need to.
Women in their 20s & 30s:
Primary Care. Consider your once a year visits. These years are great to maintain your health or identify what your risks are for different diseases at these ages. Including additional issues you may find in your family history. Risks such as a history of cancer.
Cervical Cancer. From ages 21-29 women should be screened for cervical cancer every three years. Between the ages 21-25, the risk of cervical cancer is pretty low. However, for women without the HPV vaccine, screening should be taken into consideration. Screening and a HPV vaccine depends on the history of a woman’s abnormal pap smear tests. Talk to your OB-GYN if you’re unsure.
Pap test and pelvic exam: A Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer and HPV. Although it’s helpful, it’s common to think that a woman needs a Pap Test once a year. But it is unnecessary yearly. Women from ages 30 to 65 should be screened every three years for cervical cancer only, every five years for HPV or every five years for both.
However, it is still very important. Most HPV viruses are just frustrating. If you are a healthy individual and don’t smoke, the signs of HPV will dissipate in 3-5 years. This is why Pap smears are important after the age of 21. From then on, it only needs to be done every three years until you turn 30. If you consistently have negative results, talk to your doctor about starting it every 5 years.
The HPV vaccine was originally a four-strain vaccine until now. It recently redeveloped into a nine-strain vaccine. HPV has the potential of increasing your risk of cancer. This vaccine helps safely protect you from the possibility. The FDA has approved the HPV vaccine for any person up to the age 45. Originally only for ages 11-26.
Early detection is important, especially for women from ages 20-40 where they are not thinking about the risk of cervical cancer.
Breast Exam. Normally done at your OB-GYN visit starting at 19.
STI Screening. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia should be tested for in women younger than 25 that are sexually active. Women older than 25 that have new or multiple partners should be tested for an STI. Especially if their partner has had a known STI. The number of tests or screenings for STIs should be discussed with your doctor. Getting tested for an STI is one of the most proactive things you can do for your health. Make sure to have these important conversations with your healthcare provider to ensure the best care for yourself.
When you have a screening for sexually transmitted STIs, be aware of which ones you’re being tested for. Each screening may include ones you may or may not expect and/or want. Infection like trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can be detected with a basic urine sample or vaginal swab. Infections like hepatitis, syphilis, herpes, and HIV normally require blood work and sometimes more than once. Being aware is just as important as getting tested. This way you are thorough in what you needed to get done and it was done properly.
Even when condoms are being used, it’s still important to be screened for STIs. STI detection can be time sensitive. If left undetected, infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea can damage reproductive organs like the fallopian tubes. This can cause long term effects on women’s fertility. Fortunately, it can be treated with early detection.
Planning for a Family. Talk to your OB-GYN about family planning. Discuss current contraception, if any, reproductive health, and planning. It’s important to have a plan and know the status of your health when interested in starting a family. Assessing current health issues, if necessary, is critical. Pregnancy is going to be a magnifying glass for women who have diabetes or high blood pressure, for example.
Genetic Testing. This is optional. However, if your family history dictates that breast, ovarian, cervical, or colon cancer runs in your family. You can be referred to a genetic counselor. Also called Carrier screening. Looking to see if a woman is a carrier for a specific mutation, helps determine if there are mutations that can be passed down to the next generation. If both parents carry a mutation, the child has a 1 in 4 chance of also having the mutation. Advanced screening can help inform couples and prepare them for future health risks. Carrier screenings can be done at any time, and a woman doesn’t have to be pregnant to get checked. She can simply add it on to a Pap test.
Women in their 40’s & 50’s:
Primary Visit. At least once a year.
Routine Blood Tests. Measures blood sugar, pressure, cholesterol, etc. At least once a year or as often as needed.
Pap Test / Pelvic Exam. A screening is necessary every three years for HPV and cervical cancer. Or every five years for both.
Screening for Breast Cancer. Should be screened for once a year starting at 45. Ages 40-44 can choose to start mammograms annually, and women 55 and older can move to two year. This allows you to get a head start of your own health risks because as women get older, their breast cancer risk also increases.
Women in their 60’s+ :
Pap Test / Pelvic Exam. A Pap Test is not recommended routinely after the age 65. This is dependent on each woman individually and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Blood Tests / Lipid Screening. At least once a year. This varies depending on family history or for any woman who is at average risk.
Additional Screenings for Women of All Ages:
A lack of vitamin D can have a negative impact overall. A Vitamin D deficiency can affect energy levels, metabolism, bone health, and moods. Vitamin D can be checked for annually. It’s important because it can and will affect everything else, and especially because most people don’t realize they’re even deficient.
Your OB-GYNs are the number one in women’s health. That doesn’t only mean physical but also emotional. It’s important to address any feelings of anxiety or depression. Or if you’re experiencing any kind of emotional, sexual, verbal, or physical abuse.
Mental wellness can truly affect all quality of life and impact women in ways that affect health. Screening at any point in time is important but often overlooked.
Everyone takes their health for granted at some point in time in their lives until a serious ailment affects us or someone we love. So understanding what screenings are necessary and what it takes to make your health a priority at any age is extremely important. Your health should be number one!
Call Rosh MFM For All Your Testing and Screenings
Many women only visit their gynecologist for birth control, a routine Pap test, or a vaginal infection, but gynecology embraces more than routine health care.
At Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine, the team specializes in women’s wellness and provides expert diagnosis and treatment of all reproductive health issues no matter how routine or complex. They welcome women of all ages, so if you have any questions or it’s time to schedule an annual exam or screenings, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City or book an appointment online.