Health Checklist And Tests Every Woman Needs

By Adriana Velez

We know how often we should be taking our children for their checkups, tests, and immunizations. But what about our own health? How often do we need to get a physical, a pap smear, a tetanus shot?

Sometimes it’s easy to let our own health care slide when we’re so busy juggling our kids’ doctor’s appointments. We’re here to help you, moms!

We’ve gathered all that info for you so you have a checklist of your own of sort. It’s everything you need to know about which checkups and tests to get done, when — all in one place!

With all the possible screening tests out there, you’d think this would be a HUGE list. But guess what? It’s a lot simpler than that.

The Stir spoke with Dr. Vanessa Maier, assistant professor of family medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, who said it all boils down to (almost) one thing: Get that annual physical exam with your primary care physician.

When it comes to choosing which preventative screening tests you need, “it’s really important to have a primary care physician to help you make those decisions,” Maier says. “It’s really [their] role to know what the guidelines are and to tailor them to each person.”

Still, there are basics all women should at least be aiming for, according to Maier:

Women’s Checkup and Screening Schedule

Every 6 months

Dental cleaning and exam

Every year

Physical exam with your primary care physician

Clinical breast exam

Flu shot

Every 3 years

Pap smear starting at age 21

Every 10 years

Tetanus booster

At age 30

HPV test

By age 45

Baseline cholesterol assessment

By age 50

Colon cancer screening; some may need to start earlier

By age 65

Bone density screening

A surprising number of screenings have become controversial, even the formerly routine exams that detect breast cancer. This is partly because the guidelines keep changing.

Maier recommends using the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool and bringing the results of that to your physician to begin a conversation about which screenings you need, when.

Likewise, Maier says women over 30 should consider having a pap smear and a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test.

“Those two tests together can help each woman and her physician decide how often she should get cervical cancer screenings,” she said. The CDC’s chart comparing guidelines for cervical cancer screenings as of 2012 can also help.

Can’t remember when you last had your tetanus shot?

“Just get one,” Maier recommends. It’s not going to harm you if it’s been less than 10 years since your last shot.

Other tests you should ask your doctor about:

  • Pap smears starting at age 21 for sexually active women
  • Screening for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Mammogram and other breast cancer screenings like sonograms starting around age 40 or earlier if there’s a family history; pregnant and breastfeeding women cannot have them
  • Diabetes
Adriana Velez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Adriana Velezis a staff lifestyle writer whose obsessions include spin class, Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks, ranunculus, marcona almonds, high heels you can run in, scarves, and sleeping. She lives with her elementary school-aged son in Brooklyn, land of urban farms and artisan everything.

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