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What Medical Tests Should You Be Taking?

What tests you should take, and how often you should take them, can present a confusing picture. Here, from SeniorHealth division of the National Institutes of Health, drawn from Women Stay Healthy at 50+, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is an alphabetical list of recommended health screening tests for women over 50.

BRCA 1 and 2 Genes

If you have a family member with breast, ovarian, or peritoneal cancer, talk with your doctor or nurse about your family history. Women with a strong family history of certain cancers may benefit from genetic counseling and BRCA genetic testing. Learn more about the BRCA genes and genetic testing.

Breast Cancer

Talk with your health care team about whether you need a mammogram. See what’s involved in a mammogram screening.

Cervical Cancer

Get a Pap smear every three years or get a combination Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test every five years until age 65. If you are older than 65 or have had a hysterectomy, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether you still need to be screened. Find out what’s involved in a screening for cervical cancer.

Colon Cancer

Between the ages of 50 and 75, get a screening test for colorectal cancer. Several tests — for example, a stool test or a colonoscopy — can detect this cancer. Your health care team can help you decide which is best for you. If you are between the ages of 76 and 85, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether you should continue to be screened. Learn more about the different kinds of colon-cancer screenings.

Depression

Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Talk to your health care team about being screened for depression, especially if during the last two weeks you have felt down, sad, or hopeless, or you have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things. Learn more about depression and older adults.

Diabetes

Ask your doctor if you should be screened. Diabetes can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts. See what testing for diabetes involves.

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Get screened one time for HCV infection if you were born between 1945 and 1965; have ever injected drugs; or received a blood transfusion before 1992. If you currently are an injection drug user, you should be screened regularly. Find out what a hepatitis C test involves.

High Blood Cholesterol

Have your blood cholesterol checked regularly with a blood test if you: use tobacco; are overweight or obese; have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries; a male relative had a heaet attack before age 50 or a female relative before age 60; have diabetes; or high blood pressure.  High blood cholesterol increases your chance of heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation. See what a test for high blood cholesterol involves.

High Blood Pressure

Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. High blood pressure can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure. Learn more about a high blood pressure test.

HIV

If you are 65 or younger, get screened for HIV. If you are older than 65, talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you should be screened. Find out about the different types of HIV tests.

Lung Cancer

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. (Your pack-year history is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day times the number of years you have smoked.) Know that quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. Learn more about lung cancer screening tests.

Osteoporosis (Bone Thinning)

Have a screening test at age 65 to make sure your bones are strong. The most common test is a DEXA scan — a low-dose x-ray of the spine and hip. If you are younger than 65 and at high risk for bone fractures, you should also be screened. Talk with your health care team about your risk for bone fractures. See what a DEXA scan test involves.

Overweight and Obesity

The best way to learn if you are overweight or obese is to find your body mass index (BMI). You can find your BMI by entering your height and weight into a BMI calculator, such as the one available here. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 indicates a normal weight. Persons with a BMI of 30 or higher may be obese. If you are obese, talk to your doctor or nurse about getting intensive counseling and help with changing your behaviors to lose weight. Overweight and obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you should be screened for sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Vision Disorders

If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. If you are at increased risk for or have any age-related eye disease, you may need to see your eye care professional more often. From the National Eye Institute, learn what a comprehensive dilated eye exam involves.

Other Tests

You know your body better than anyone else. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any changes in your health. Ask them about being checked for any condition you are concerned about, not just the ones listed here. If you are wondering about Alzheimer’s disease, skin cancer, or hearing loss, for example, ask about them.

For more information about health issues, visit the SeniorHealth website.