Health Screenings for Women Age 65 and Older
You should visit your health care provider from time to time, even if you are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
- Screen for medical issues
- Assess your risk for future medical problems
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle
- Update vaccinations
- Help you get to know your provider in case of an illness
Even if you feel fine, you should still see your provider for regular checkups. These visits can help you avoid problems in the future. For example, the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. High blood sugar and high cholesterol levels also may not have any symptoms in the early stages. A simple blood test can check for these conditions.
There are specific times when you should see your provider or receive specific health screenings. The US Preventive Services Task Force publishes a list of recommended screenings. Below are screening guidelines for women age 65 and older.
BLOOD PRESSURE SCREENING
Have your blood pressure checked at least once every year. Watch for blood pressure screenings in your area. Ask your provider if you can stop in to have your blood pressure checked. You can also check your blood pressure using the automated machines at local grocery stores and pharmacies.
Ask your doctor if you need your blood pressure checked more often if:
- You have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or are overweight or have certain other health conditions
- You have a first-degree relative with high blood pressure
- You are Black
- Your blood pressure top number is from 120 to 129 mm Hg, or the bottom number is from 70 to 79 mm Hg
BREAST CANCER SCREENING
- Women may do a monthly breast self-exam. However, experts do not agree about the benefits of breast self-exams in finding breast cancer or saving lives. Talk to your provider about what is best for you.
- Your provider may do a clinical breast exam during your preventive exam. Experts do not agree on the benefit of a breast examination.
- Women up to age 75 should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on their risk factors, to check for breast cancer.
- Experts do not agree on the benefits of having a mammogram for women age 75 and older. Some do not recommend having mammograms after this age. Others recommend mammography for women in good health. Talk to your provider about what is best for you.
CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING
After age 65, most women who have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer or precancer can stop having screening tests, as long as:
- They have had 3 consecutive negative Pap test results or 2 consecutive negative PAP and HPV tests results within 10 years
- The most recent test occurred within 5 years
If your cholesterol level is normal, have it rechecked at least every 5 years.
You should have repeat testing sooner if:
- Changes occur in your lifestyle (including weight gain and diet)
- You have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other health conditions
COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING
Until age 75, you should have screening for colorectal cancer on a regular basis. If you are age 76 or older, you should ask your doctor if you should receive screening. Several tests are available for colorectal cancer screening:
- A stool-based fecal occult blood (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
- A stool sDNA-FIT test every 1 to 3 years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years or every 10 years with stool testing with FIT done every year
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
You may need a colonoscopy more often if you have risk factors for colon cancer, including:
- Ulcerative colitis
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer
- A history of growths in your colon called adenomatous polyps
- Go to the dentist once or twice every year for an exam and cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you have a need for more frequent visits.
You should be screened for diabetes every 3 years.
You may be tested more often If you have other risk factors for diabetes, such as:
- A first degree relative with diabetes
- You are overweight or have obesity, high blood pressure, prediabetes, or a history of heart disease
- Have an eye exam every 1 to 2 years. Your provider may recommend more frequent eye exams if you have vision problems or glaucoma risk.
- Have an eye exam that includes an examination of your retina (back of your eye) at least every year if you have diabetes.
- Have your hearing tested if you have symptoms of hearing loss.
Commonly needed vaccines include:
- Flu shot: get one every year
- Pneumococcal vaccines: you should receive this vaccine
- Tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: have as one of your tetanus-diphtheria vaccines if you did not receive it as an adolescent
- Tetanus-diphtheria: have a booster (or Tdap) every 10 years
INFECTIOUS DISEASE SCREENING
Screening for hepatitis C:
- All adults ages 18 to 79 should get a one-time test for hepatitis C.
Screening for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV):
- All people ages 15 to 65 should get a one-time test for HIV
Depending on your lifestyle and medical history, you may need to be screened for infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, and other infections.
LUNG CANCER SCREENING
You should have an annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) if:
- You are age 50 to 80 years AND
- You have a 20 pack-year smoking history AND
- You currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
- All women age 65 or older should have a bone density test (DEXA scan).
- Ask your provider which exercises or other interventions can help prevent osteoporosis or bone fractures.
All adults should visit their provider from time to time, even if they are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
- Screen for diseases
- Assess risk of future medical problems
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle
- Update vaccinations
- Maintain a relationship with a provider in case of an illness
During the exam, your provider will ask questions about:
- Depression and anxiety
- Diet and exercise including exercises to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Safety, such as use of seat belts and smoke detectors and intimate partner violence
- Whether you have had any falls or are afraid of falling
- Your medicines and risk for interactions
- Your provider may check your skin for signs of skin cancer, especially if you’re at high risk.
- People at high risk include those who have had skin cancer before, have close relatives with skin cancer, or have a weakened immune system.
Source: Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine