Take the first step and set up a visit with your OB/GYN.
With life slowly getting back to normal, it’s high time to put your gynecologic health back at the top of your priority list – starting with cervical health. It’s important that women understand the importance of regular screening to prevent the disease, which is most frequently diagnosed in women 35-44, and is almost always caused by HPV (human papilloma virus) infection, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
“Thanks to advances in screening – including the PAP and HPV testing – cervical cancer cases have dropped by more than half in the past 30 years,” notes Dr. Nabil Khoury, one of the founding physicians of White Plains Obstetrics and Gynecology Partners. “With increased awareness and preventive testing, this disease could someday be wiped out completely.”
Use this age-by-age guide to combine these simple tests with other crucial women’s health screenings to catch and stop disease as early as possible.
If you are in your 20s/30s…
Ask your physician about a regular cervical cancer screening through a blood test and/or in combination with a Pap exam.
Get tested periodically for all sexually transmitted diseases, throughout your life, if you are sexually active.
Also, consider getting tested at least once for HIV (if you get pregnant, you will be tested for HIV and syphilis as part of the normal screening).
If you are in your 40s…
Women of average risk are advised to start annual screening mammograms for breast cancer at age 40.
Continue to get cervical cancer screenings through a blood test and/or in combination with a Pap exam, as well as for an HIV test.
If you are in your 50s…
Contrary to myth, cervical cancer is not just a young woman’s disease. The average age of being diagnosed is around 50, says the ACS. Regular cervical cancer screenings through a blood tests and/or in combination with a Pap exam should remain a best healthcare habit, in addition to getting screening mammograms every year.
Additionally, if you have been through menopause or have been told you are at increased risk for osteoporosis, ask your doctor about getting a bone density test (DEXA scan). According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a woman’s odds of breaking her hip due to weakened bones is the same as her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined.
If you are in your 60s…
The American Cancer Society reports that more than 20% of cervical cancer cases are found in those over 65. Speak with your doctor to see if you need to continue cervical cancer screenings.
After age 65, women should continue to have a bone density test (DEXA scan) every two years, and healthy women with no family history should be scheduling screening mammograms for breast cancer every year.
If you are 70 and over …
Talk to your OB/GYN about the best age to discontinue your cervical cancer screenings. Continue annual mammograms as long as you are in good health; consult with your provider.
Women of this age are at increased risk for osteoporosis and should continue to have a bone density test (DEXA scan) every two years.
Note: These screening recommendations are for people at average risk of each disease.If your risk of a disease is elevated due to your personal or family medical history, ask your doctor about screening guidelines for you.
This story originally ran in USA Today.