TMH Living Well: Health screens for women through the years |

TMH Living Well: Health screens for women through the years

The Memorial Hospital

If you've hit a milestone or are approaching one it's time to think about health screens. A little prevention can help ward off the top three health threats for women: heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

"I have had several instances of women getting screening tests when they didn't want to, and lo and behold, we found something serious," said Dr. Scott Ellis, OB-GYN with The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic.

Consider these tests through the ages:


In your 30s you don't have to worry about any special tests.

Just keep up with the routine ones, including a physical and pap smear every three years after age 21. You should also consider a blood pressure and cholesterol check; do these every one to five years depending on results from here on out.


With that 40th birthday your body starts showing signs of aging. Plan on getting the usual physical, pap smear every three years, and blood pressure check from one to five years depending on your personal health history and your doctor recommendations.

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With the pap, get an HPV (human papilloma virus) test every five years. If you have high blood pressure, get screened for diabetes.

It's also not a bad idea to add an annual stool occult blood test—a simple test you can even do at home—to screen for colon cancer yearly.

With mammograms, you've got a decision to make.

While the federal guidelines suggest getting a mammo every two years starting at age 50, you should consider your own risk factors for breast cancer. Recommendations changed from years past because mammograms often provoked additional testing on non-cancerous cysts and because breast cancer numbers are higher in later years. Yet, there are many women who get breast cancer in their 40s (some with no family history whatsoever), so getting screened isn't a bad idea. Talk with your doctor and make an informed decision.

"One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, so screening mammograms are important. It's the best tool we have to catch breast cancer," said Dr. Jim Summers, OB-GYN with TMH Medical Clinic.

Self-breast exams are a good idea. Checking breasts in the shower takes mere seconds, and there are plenty of women who have found suspicious lumps that carry the telltale signs of being firm and not tender and sticking around through several cycles.

"Women who are high-risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram each year. The benefit of a yearly mammogram is catching pre-cancer or cancer early on, when cure rates are very good," Summers added.


Now is when the fun begins. Several tests are added to your list, including a regular mammogram every two years and a baseline colonoscopy. At this point you should be getting regular cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure checks. Depending on your personal risk for diabetes and heart disease, you will likely need these tests yearly.

If results of your colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are good, you won't need another for five to 10 years. This is a good test not to blow off, as colorectal cancer rates increase markedly after age 50. A bonus is that most women can wait until 65 to get a bone density scan for osteoporosis. Finally, the 50s often bring menopause. If you have severe hot flashes, mood swings or other side effects, talk to your doctor about your options.

"Screening tests are not always pleasant, but they make a huge difference on health outcomes," Ellis said.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

Reduced-cost mammograms

— The Memorial Hospital, 750 Hospital Loop, is offering mammograms for $80 in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the women’s health services department. For more information and appointments, call 970-826-3150.