Making the effort to see your doctor for check-ups may seem like a waste of time, but early detection has proven beneficial in the fight against many types of disease. For women, there are a variety of conditions that could be developing inside your body—like diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer, and finding them early is your best defense. But what screenings are most important for you? The answer will depend on your age, family, and personal history so talk with your doctor and follow his or her recommendations. Here are a few of the most common:
- Clinical breast exams and mammograms. Depending on your personal and family history, women should be getting a clinical breast exam (a breast exam performed by a trained medical professional) every 1 to 3 years in their 20’s and 30’s and mammograms every year starting at age 40. Your doctor may adjust this schedule depending on your personal history and risk factors.
- Pap smears. A pap smear is a swab of the cells that grow in the cervix. The cervix is a section of tissue that connects the area where a baby grows (uterus) with the birth canal (vagina). Changes in the cells of the cervix can lead to cervical cancer, and pap smears help find these cells with a simple, quick, painless test.
- Bone mineral density testing. Over time, minerals inside bone can be lost. As minerals dissolve, tiny holes are left in their place, making bones throughout the body weak and more likely to break. A simple fall, stumble or other injury can lead to serious problems for women with osteoporosis. Screening for this disease through bone mineral density testing (a painless X-ray scan that checks how solid your bones are) may reveal early osteoporosis and help doctors treat it before a break occurs. Testing is recommended for all women over age 65, or earlier if you have a higher risk for the disease.