What are some early disease detection recommendations for women?

Two major early detection tests for women are:
  • Pap smear to test for cervical cancer
  • mammogram to screen for breast cancer
Otherwise, depending on your personal and family history, you should also be screened for high cholesterol and diabetes.
Carmen Patrick Mohan, MD
Internal Medicine
The guidelines for routine health maintenance have been recently updated by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). There is no one-size fits all approach to health maintenance, and your particular health history, family history of cancer, and lifestyle (i.e. exercise habit, smoking status) will change the way your doctor approaches these recommendations. The following is an outline for what you can expect your doctor to routinely recommend based on your age, provided you have had normal screening in the past and are generally well. As always, your specific health needs take precedence over this general guide:
  1. Regardless of whether or not you received the HPV vaccine, routine Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer should begin by age 21 and continued every 3 years through age 29. By age 30, based on your preference and doctor’s concerns, you may opt for combined Pap smear and HPV testing every 5 years. It’s always nice to know when you can stop looking for trouble. Routine screening can be discontinued at age 65.
  2. Every 1 to 2 years, screening mammography for early detection of breast cancer is recommended for all women at average risk age 50 until 74. However, the major groups of experts disagree about screening mammography for younger women at average risk and women 75 and older. By age 40, you should talk to your doctor about what screening strategy is best for you. If you are older than 74, talk to your doctor about when the appropriate time to stop screening will be. If you ever feel an abnormal lump in your breast, urgent evaluation by a physician is indicated.
  3. There are other screening tests indicated for both men and women such as colonoscopy for early detection of colon cancer, which should be performed by age 50. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.