To stay healthy at any age, we all need a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity. And, of course, no smoking. But beyond a healthy lifestyle, women need to make sure they get the right health tests at the right times. By getting the appropriate screenings, you can detect diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, early—when they are the most treatable. And in an annual well woman exam, your gynecologist can help make sure nothing else is amiss.
Don’t wait until you suspect there’s a problem. By being proactive, you can head off some health issues before they start. Here are the gynecological tests women need.
|Test||Why Have It||When to Start||Frequency|
|Pap Test||This test can find pre-cancers before they develop into cervical cancer.||Three years after a woman begins having sex or age 21 (whichever is earlier).||Annually. Women 30 and older who have had three consecutive normal test results may only need to be tested every two to three years (American Cancer Society)
Those who’ve had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may opt to stop having Pap tests, unless they have the surgery as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer.
|Clinical Breast Exam||Detects any abnormalities in the breast tissue.||In your 20s.||At least every three years in your 20s and 30s; but preferably, annually during your well woman exam. (American Cancer Society)|
|Mammogram||Detects breast cancer in its earliest stage.||Age 40 for most women. If you have a family history of early breast cancer, your doctor may recommend a baseline mammogram at a younger age.||Annually. (American Cancer Society)|
And remember — these aren’t the only screenings you need. Your primary care doctor can talk to you about things like heart health tests and colon cancer screenings.