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What are Essential Screening Tests for Women?

By HERWriter
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Proper screening tests won’t always prevent a disease. But a screening test can often find a disease early enough to allow the best chance of overcoming it. Here are the most important screening tests for women.


Early detection and treatment help prevent the spread of breast cancer and boost the odds of recovery, said Today.com.

According to WebMD, women in their 40s should have a mammogram every year. Between ages 50 and 74, women should have a mammogram every other year.

Pap Smear and Pelvic Exam

Beginning at age 21, or earlier if sexually active, women need to have a pelvic exam and Pap smear every two years to check for any abnormalities, said EverydayHealth.com.

Barring any problems, women age 30 and older only need a Pap smear every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row.

HPV Test

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer and most sexually active women get the infection at some point, reported Today.com.

Beginning around age 30, women becomes more prone to infection. Get tested at age 30, and have your Pap smear every three years if results are normal.

Bone Density Test

Testing for bone loss is necessary for all women over age 65, as well as for younger women having at least one known risk factor, and for women who have had a hysterectomy, wrote About.com.

Osteoporosis that has been caught early by a bone density test is treatable with medications that stop progression of the disease and can reverse some bone loss.

Skin Cancer Check

Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death for women ages 25-29, said Today.com. See a dermatologist annually if you have any family history of skin cancer, or semi-annually if you have actually had the disease.

Screening for High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is also called hypertension. In between these two conditions is prehypertension, a sort of early warning stage, wrote WebMD. Ask your doctor how often to check your blood pressure.

Cholesterol Screening

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EmpowHER Guest

Also, HIV testing is not something I'd do, but those who think they may be at risk might discuss it with their doctor.
Colonoscopies, I'm undecided and have opted to do the FOBT at this stage. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results of the randomized controlled trial being conducted by Gil Welch at Dartmouth. His team are comparing the effectiveness of colonoscopies with the FOBT. The former carries more risk, including serious risk from perforation and infection, it also, has not reduced overall mortality....is it really any better than the FOBT? Once again, we can't overlook the fact colonoscopies make millions for the profession, hospitals etc.
Screen or don't screen, but make it an informed decision, following recommendations and lists is often not in ourr best interests.

October 3, 2013 - 4:29pm
EmpowHER Guest

I don't agree with this list. Women should consider the evidence before agreeing to screening tests, they carry risk. Only we can decide whether the benefits exceed the risks. All screening is optional, we can say NO.
I declined clinical breast exams, they're not recommended anymore, they are of no proven benefit, but cause excess biopsies.
I declined pap testing decades ago, the risk were too high for me, I was content to accept my near zero risk of cervix cancer rather than the 77% lifetime risk of referral for colposcopy/biopsy with our program.
For those who wish to test, the new Dutch program follows the evidence, putting women first, it will save more lives from this rare cancer, but also, protects the vast majority of women from a lifetime of unnecessary pap testing ad potentially harmful over-treatment.
They'll offer women 5 hrHPV primary tests at ages 30,35,40,50 and 60, or women can self- test for HPV, and only the roughly 5% of women who are HPV+ will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. (until she clears the virus)
HPV testing should always stand alone as the primary test, HPV- women cannot bnefit from pap testing. Those women who are HPV- and no longer sexually active or confidently monogamous might choose to stop all further testing.
Most countries don't follow the evidence and don't respect informed consent resulting in widespread harm to healthy women.
The routine pelvic exam is not recommended, it's of poor clinical value and can lead to some harmful places, even unnecessary surgery. It is not a screening test for ovarian cancer. I've never had one and never will...the American obsession with this exam is IMO, more about medical profits than women's healthcare.
It's a good idea to monitor blood pressure, especially from mid-life on...no argument there.
Mammograms are highly controversial, I've declined them. The Nordic Cochrane Institute, an independent not-for-profit medical research group, have produced an excellent summary of the evidence, it's at their website. The evidence is not good, about 50% of screen detected breast cancers are over-diagnosed, the fall in the death rate is mostly about better treatments, not screening, screening leads to more mastectomies, (not fewer, as claimed) and any benefit of screening is wiped away by those who die from heart attacks and lung cancer after treatments, so the risks exceed the benefit.
Read the summary and make your own informed decision.

Skin checks, my doctor said they were unnecessary for me, I have few moles, sunspots etc. she suggested I see her if anything changes.
So it's always important to assess your risk profile.

We also, have to be careful with supplements, so many women take extra calcium when their levels are normal, that can cause health problems.
Basically, IMO, most screening over-promises and under-delivers, the enormous profits generated by screening are, in my opinion, often behind recommendations. Non-evidence based screening and excess is not in our interests. Dr Gilbert Welch ("Over-diagnosed") and Dr Margaret McCartney ("Patient Paradox") have both written excellent books on cancer screening.
HPV Today, Edition 24, sets out the new Dutch Cervical Screening Program

October 3, 2013 - 4:20pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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