It can be exhausting to drudge through all the information regarding recommended healthcare. The internet tells you one thing but your mom told you something different and now you don’t know who to believe. This is why we have professional healthcare organizations and public health experts to make guidelines for men and women of varying ages. Below is a quick and dirty guide to recommended health care screenings and who is doing the recommending.
- Pap Tests: The Pap test is the screening tool for cervical cancer. These recommendations assume results remain normal, the schedule must be adjusted for abnormal results. (ACOG)
- Ages 21-29: Pap test only; recommended every 3 years
- Ages 30-65: Pap test + HPV (“co-testing”); recommended every 5 years*
*It is also acceptable to have Pap test without HPV every 3 years
*The HPV vaccine is recommended for all boys and girls ages 11-13 to prevent contracting the strains of HPV that cause 99% of cervical cancer.
- Breast Cancer Screening: The reason screening recommendations for all breast cancer screening tools are variable is because they haven’t been shown to improve outcomes for women who do not have symptoms. With that said, we don’t have any better tools so below are the guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force, The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Family and personal histories can change these screening guidelines. Most organizations agree that screening should continue at least through age 75. After that,
recommendations should be individualized.
- Clinical Breast Exam:
- Self Breast Awareness:
- Self breast exams are no longer recommended for women of any age; instead the recommendation is to teach women self breast awareness, which is being well-acquainted with what your breast look like and feel like so that you can detect changes. More info (and videos) available here.
- Routine Blood Work: Although you may have been told you need annual blood work; for people who have no known illnesses and no symptoms only need to be screened for cholesterol testing, diabetes and colon cancer at the following intervals.
- Cholesterol Testing (USPSTF)
- Women age 45+ every 5 years
- Women ages 20-44+ with risk factors
- Risk factors include: smoking, obesity, diabetes, non-active lifestyle, family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
- Diabetes Testing (American Diabetes Association)
- Women age 45+ every 3 years
- Women with BMI >25 + 1 or more risk factors
- Risk factors include: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history, non-active lifestyle, history of gestational diabetes or PCOS.
- Cholesterol Testing (USPSTF)
- Colonoscopy: Recommended every 10 years from ages 50-75 (USPSTF)
As Certified Nurse Midwives, we are able to order all of these screenings for you at your wellness visit. Please feel free to call or email us for any clarifications on which tests you need done. We are committed to helping you navigate the healthcare system in a way that is evidence based.