When was the last time you voluntarily went to the doctor for a general check-up? Because of our busy schedules, going to the hospital or the doctor can feel like a chore—not to mention an added expense.
But whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, it’s important to get regular check-ups from time to time—even if you feel healthy. These visits help screen for medical issues, assess risks for future medical problems, encourage a healthier lifestyle, and help you get to know your healthcare provider in case of a serious illness.
As we start plotting trips around upcoming long weekends and holidays this year, it’s a good time to jot down key dates in our new planners.
LIST: 11 Recommended Medical Screenings for Women, according to Health Experts
1. Annual Physical Exam (APE)
Get that APE done, whether or not your company requires you to. A standard blood testing, a chest x-ray, urinalysis, and routine physical exam can help you determine your health status. From monitoring of weight to early detection of tumors, regular medical checkups can save lives through preventive treatment.
Your height, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI) should be checked at every exam. Your health care provider may also ask you questions about your mental health, depression and anxiety, diet and exercise, safety issues, alcohol and tobacco use, sexual history, medicines, and risks for interactions.
In general, healthy people should get a physical exam every two to three years in their 20s, every other year in their 30s and 40s, and annually starting around age 50.
2. Blood pressure screening
Blood pressure screening is a routine part of most general healthcare check-ups. According to the Mayo Clinic, people age 18 and older with optimal blood pressure and no heart disease risk factors should have a blood pressure test at least once every 2 to 5 years.
Meanwhile, those aged 40 and older—or those with an increased risk of high blood pressure—should have a blood pressure test every year. However, people who have chronic health conditions, such as high or low blood pressure or heart disease, may need to have blood pressure tests more often.
3. Cholesterol screening
Unfortunately, eating too much food high in fat can increase your cholesterol levels. It’s important to get your cholesterol checked regularly, as too much of it in your blood can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Starting at age 20, the general recommendation is to get cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. However, more frequent testing may be necessary for those with risk factors, including risk of heart disease or family history, as high cholesterol can run in the family. Repeat cholesterol screening should take place as follows:
- Every 5 years for women with normal cholesterol levels
- More often if changes occur in lifestyle (including weight gain and diet)
- Even more often if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions
4. Dental exam
In general, you should be going to the dentist once or twice every year for a routine dental exam and general cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you need more frequent visits. People with a higher risk of oral diseases might need to see a dentist every three to six months.
There are many complications in skipping out on dental appointments, especially when you get older. For instance, a mild case of gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, which can loosen your teeth and cause them to fall out. Built-up plaque can also turn into tartar, which can be hard to remove through flossing and brushing alone. Too much tartar can cause tooth decay and cavities.
5. Eye exam
With constant exposure to screens, it’s common for eyesight to worsen as you age. Health experts recommend having an eye exam every 5 to 10 years before age 40. However, if you have vision problems and wear eyeglasses, you should have an eye exam every 2 years or more often if recommended by your provider. You should have an eye exam that includes an examination of your retina (back of your eye) at least every year if you have diabetes.
6. Breast cancer screening
A Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) is recommended every 1-3 years for women in their 20s and 30s, and annually for women 40 and older. Regular self-exams are also recommended. The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammograms for all women over 40, regardless of symptoms or family history. According to the latest updated recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), women who are at average risk for breast cancer should start mammogram screening at age 40 and get one every two years until age 74.
Early detection remains the primary way to prevent the development of life-threatening breast cancer. Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. While screening mammograms are not recommended for most women under age 40, your healthcare provider may discuss and recommend mammograms, MRI scans, or ultrasounds if you have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Some risk factors include:
- A mother or sister who had breast cancer at a young age (most often starting screening earlier than the age the close relative was diagnosed)
- You carry a high-risk genetic marker
7. Diabetes screening
You should be screened for diabetes starting at age 35 and then repeated every 3 years if you have no risk factors for diabetes. Screening may need to start earlier and be repeated more often if you have other risk factors for diabetes, such as:
- You have a first-degree relative with diabetes
- You are overweight or obese
- You have high blood pressure, prediabetes, or a history of heart disease
- You are planning to become pregnant
8. Cervical cancer screening
According to health experts from The Medical City, half of cervical cancer cases occur in women between ages 35 and 55. They advise getting a pelvic exam and pap smear from a gynecology hospital every three years starting at age 21, or every five years with the combination of HPV testing and Pap smear starting at age 30.
Likewise, women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with either a Pap test every 3 years or the HPV test every 5 years or both tests every 5 years (called "co-testing"). However, women who have been treated for precancer (cervical dysplasia) should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after treatment or until age 65, whichever is longer.
Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed (total hysterectomy), and have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer or precancer (high-grade cervical neoplasia), no longer need cervical cancer screening.
9. Skin Exam
According to Skin MD Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology, approximately 1 out of 50 Filipinos will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their life. Fair-skinned individuals are said to be more vulnerable to skin cancer or melanoma in the Philippines, due to their reduced protection against harmful UV rays from the sun.
Those who frequently engage in outdoor activities like sports, beachgoing, flying, fieldwork, farming, and vending also have an elevated risk of developing skin cancer because of higher exposure. This can be easily dealt with if detected at an early stage.
Some health experts recommend getting regular skin cancer screenings in your early 20s, especially if you have risk factors such as fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, a large number of moles, or get a significant amount of sun exposure. You can also perform skin self-exams at home.
10. Infectious disease screening
Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) should be done as needed based on sexual activity and risk factors. Sexually-active women should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea up until age 25. Women 25 years and older should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea, if at high risk.
Depending on your lifestyle and medical history, you may also need to be screened for infections such as syphilis and HIV, as well as other infections. Everyone age 15 to 65 should get a one-time test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
11. Bone Density Test
Osteoporosis can occur at any age, although the risk of developing the disease increases as you get older—and women are at higher risk than men. For many women, the disease begins to develop a year or two before menopause.
Bone Density Tests can measure how strong your bones are and help you understand the risks of breaking bones in the future. Health experts recommend women aged 65 and older to get a bone density test. Women younger than 64 might also need to see a doctor if they’ve gone through menopause.
While undergoing all of these medical screenings may seem like a downer after the New Year, just remember—in the long run, it will cost you less to stay healthy, than having to be hospitalized and rely on medicines later on.