The Most Recommended Screenings for Women 50 and Above
What kind of screening or diagnostic tests should you take after 50? The SeniorHealth division of the National Institutes on Aging, using material developed by the respected Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, has some suggestions:
BRCA 1 and 2 Genes
The agency experts recommend that you consider a genetic test for these breast-cancer genes if you have a family member with breast, ovarian, or peritoneal cancer. You might benefit from genetic counseling and taking the test. Go here for more information: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA.
Talk with your health care team about how often you need a mammogram. The answer may depend on your age, family health history or personal health history. To learn more about what a mammogram involves, visit http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/mammograms.html
Get a Pap smear every 3 years or get a combination Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test every 5 years until age 65, the SeniorHealth experts say. Guidelines on this test have been changing, so be sure to ask your health care provider for the latest information.
You should have a screening test for colon cancer between the ages of 50 and 75. The SeniorHealth experts emphasize that there are several different kinds of screenings, including blood tests and colonoscopies. Your doctor can help you choose one. If you are over 75, talk with your doctor about whether you should continue the screenings. Visit here to learn more: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002071.htm
It’s as important to monitor your emotional health as it is your physical health. You should talk to your health care providers, the SeniorHealth experts say, if you have experienced, over the last two weeks, feelings of sadness or hopelessness and felt no pleasure or interest in activities. Go to this link to learn more about depression and older adults: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/depression/aboutdepression/01.html
Ask your doctor if you should be screened for this autoimmune disease, which can affect vital organs including the heart, brain and kidneys. Visit here to learn more: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/diagnosis/index.aspx.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
The SeniorHealth experts recommend that you get screened once for HCV infection if
you were born between 1945 and 1965
you have ever injected drugs
you received a blood transfusion before 1992.
If you currently are an injection drug user, get regular screenings. To learn more about hepatitis C screening, go here: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/pdfs/hepctesting-diagnosis.pdf.
High Blood Cholesterol
Expserts advise a regular blood-cholesterol check if you smoke; are overweight or obese; have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arties; or have a male relative who had a heart attack before age 50 or a female relative before age 60.
For more information about high blood cholesterol, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/diagnosis.
High Blood Pressure
Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years, the SeniorHealth experts say. High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure. Here are the basics of a blood-pressure test: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/diagnosis.
People 65 or under should get an HIV screening. If you are older than that, ask your health care provider if it’s the right thing for you. Here is some information about HIV testing: http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/hiv-testing/hiv-test-types/.
A lung-cancer screening could be in order if you’re between the ages of 55 and 80, have a 30 pack-year smoking history, and smoke now Talk to your doctor or nurse about getting screened for lung cancer if you are between the ages of 55 and 80, have a 30 pack-year smoking history, and smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years. (According to the SeniorHealth experts, your pack-year history is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day times the number of years you have smoked.) Learn more about lung cancer screening tests: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/lungcancer/faq/faq16.html.
The SeniorHealth experts recommend having a screening at age 65 to evaluate the strength of your bones. The most common test is a DEXA scan — a low-dose x-ray of the spine and hip. Women who are younger than 65 and at high risk for bone fractures, you should be screened. Here’s more information about DEXA scans: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007197.htm.
Overweight and Obesity
You can find your body mass index (BMI) by entering your height and weight into a BMI calculator, such as the one available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 indicates a normal weight. People with a BMI of 30 or higher could be obese. Talk to your doctor or nurse about getting changing your behaviors to lose weight, since overweight or obesity can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Ask your health care providers if you should have a screening test for infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Learn more: http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/gonorrhea.html#e and http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/chlamydia.html#d.
Have a dilated eye exam at least once a year, the NIH experts say, if you’re 60 or older. You may need more frequent checkups if you’re at risk for an age-related eye disease or if you have one already. Learn what a comprehensive dilated eye exam involves: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/healthyeyes/eyeexam/01.html.
Be sure to alert your doctor or nurse about any change in your health. Ask them if you should be tested to find out the cause of that change.
For more information about other senior-health issues, visit http://nihseniorhealth.gov/.