Medical Tests For Women Over Age 40
As women age, their chances for disease increase. However, if detected early, many diseases, including many early stages of cancer, can be treated successfully. Therefore, it is especially important that women maintain good physical health by maintaining a well-balanced diet, exercising, and receiving regular medical tests. The type and frequency of medical tests a woman should have depend on her age and often other circumstances, such as a family history of diseases. This article summarizes the necessary medical tests for women over age 40. Click here to read about medical tests for women under age 40.
- Breast self-exam: Thorough breast self-exams should be practiced monthly to check for any breast or nipple changes that may indicate breast conditions or cancer.
- Skin self-exam: The skin and moles should be examined monthly for any changes that may indicate skin cancer or other skin conditions.
- Pelvic exam: A physician-performed pelvic exam should be performed each year to check for abnormalities in the size or shape of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.
- Pap smear: A physician-performed Pap smear should be administered each year to screen for cervical cancer and other cervical abnormalities.
- Mammogram: A mammogram, x-ray exam of the breast, should be performed each year beginning at age 40 to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.
- Clinical breast exam: A physician-performed clinical breast exam should be administered every year to help detect breast cancer.
- Skin exam: A thorough skin exam should be performed by a physician every year to help detect changes that may indicate skin cancer or other skin conditions.
- Fecal occult blood test: A fecal occult blood test should be performed each year beginning at age 50 to help screen for colon cancer.
- Flu shot: An influenza (flu) shot should be given every year beginning at age 65 to help prevent influenza, which can be fatal to the elderly.
- Blood pressure test: Blood pressure should be checked by a healthcare provider at least every two years. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Eye exam: A thorough eye exam should be performed at least every one to two years until age 60 and then every year after age 60 to check for diseases such as glaucoma.
- Diabetes test: A fasting plasma glucose diabetes test should be performed every three years to detect diabetes.
- Cholesterol test: A cholesterol blood test should be performed at least every five years. High LDL ("bad") cholesterol, high total cholesterol levels or low HDL ("good") cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy, examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon, should be performed every five years to help screen for colon cancer beginning at age 50. However, a double contrast barium enema every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years (both beginning at age 50) may be substituted for the sigmoidoscopy.
- Double contrast barium enema: A double contrast barium enema should be performed every five years to help screen for colon cancer beginning at age 50. However, a sigmoidoscopy every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years (both beginning at age 50) may be substituted for the barium enema.
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy, examination of the colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope, should be performed every 10 years to help screen for colon cancer beginning at age 50. However, a sigmoidoscopy every five years or a double contrast barium enema every five years may be substituted for the colonoscopy. Researchers are investigating whether a non-invasive exam called virtual colonoscopy (CT) is as accurate at detecting colon cancer as standard colonoscopy. If so, virtual colonoscopy may be an appropriate alternative for patients who are unable or unwilling to undergo conventional colonoscopy. However, virtual colonoscopy is currently not recommended as a standard screening exam for colon cancer.
- FSH test: An FSH test may be performed to determine whether a woman is close to or has reached menopause.
Updated: January 2012