I’m dividing this post into two parts. The first is on the recommendations for screening in females. The other part is some general thoughts on women’s health in general (and are somewhat generalizable to anyone’s health, male or female). The recommendations are taken from USPSTF related sites.
If you’ve read any or all of my earlier posts, you know I’m into screening and catching diseases early, especially if there is treatment for the particular disease.
Women should get pap smears every 3-5 years with HPV testing. The frequency depends on a woman’s age, whether the pap smear is negative and the results of HPV testing. It is important that the HPV testing be done via one of the five tests that are FDA approved: the unapproved tests from what I understand are more prone to error. Ask your doctor if he or she knows whether the lab he or she uses is FDA approved.
Screening for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) is suggested. This includes syphilis and HIV in high risk individuals.
Breast cancer screening (mammography) is done every 1-2 years starting at 50 (the old recommendations were every two years starting at 40, then yearly after age 50). BRAC testing should only be done if there is a family history of breast, ovarian, peritoneal cancer.
Bone density should be done at least once after age 64. However one can consider doing bone densitometry at an earlier age.
As much time and energy that people put into screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, etc I think there a tendency forget about screening for heart disease and colorectal cancer, things I think people tend to see as “a man’s disease”. However in 2010, 23.5% of deaths in women were due to heart disease, and 22.1% were due to cancer deaths (this includes all cancer deaths, not just breast cancer). Lung cancer killed 70,000 women whereas breast cancer killed 40,000 women that same year. These are for the most part “lifestyle diseases” in as much as most lung cancer is caused by smoking; diet, lack of exercise, obesity contribute to heart disease. These are all things that are modifiable to a great extent.