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Must Have Medical Tests for Women

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: lrohner • updated: 11/28/2010

Medical testing for women is an important topic that too many women do not know enough about. Read on to learn more about the medical tests women should have.

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    Medical testing for women is something many women do not fully understand. Many do not know which screening tests they should have and when they should have them. These medical tests can prevent diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, or ensure that prompt treatment is given.

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    Pap Smear

    All women older than 21 years of age should have this test. If women under 21 are sexually active, they should also have this test. Each year, about 3,700 women die of cervical cancer. Getting regular Pap smears can help in preventing these deaths. This test can see if cervical cells have the abnormal changes that may result in cervical cancer.

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    Mammogram

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society recommend that women begin getting annual mammograms starting at 40 years old. However, other professional groups and organizations recommend getting annual mammograms starting at 50 years old. Each women should speak to her doctor to determine which age is best for her to start getting this important test. Mammograms are a type of diagnostic imaging that is used to screen for, and sometimes diagnose, breast cancer. When breast cancer is found early, the survival rate is about 96 percent.

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    Bone Density

    Of the medical tests women should have, a bone density test is often overlooked. This test is painless and is used to detect bone loss. All women over 65 years of age should have this test done. Women who have had a hysterectomy, regardless of age, should also have this test. This test is primarily used to help screen for osteoporosis.

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    Blood Pressure

    50 million Americans have high blood pressure. Blood pressure is generally considered high when it is repeatedly above 140/90. Blood pressure can be too low as well and this can also cause problems. High blood pressure can lead to serious health issues like stroke and heart attack. Low blood pressure can result in headaches and dizziness. Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year, but more frequently if it has read too high or too low.

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    Cholesterol

    Testing cholesterol levels is an important component of medical testing for women. This test should be done every five years. High cholesterol can lead to blocked arteries which can cause major health issues like stroke and heart attack.

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    Colorectal Cancer

    A colonoscopy is generally used for colorectal cancer screening. The American Cancer Society recommends getting the first colonoscopy at age 50, and every 10 years thereafter. They also recommend that starting at age 50, getting a fecal blood culture test every year. When colon cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate it about 90 percent.

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    Skin Cancer

    Skin cancers are very common, but also very preventable in many cases. Screening consists of a simple visual examination by a medical doctor. Having this done at least once a year by a dermatologist is recommended. Many local hospitals in the United States offering a free skin cancer screening in May every year.

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    Diabetes Screening

    Any woman who is at risk for diabetes should keep an eye on her blood glucose levels. However, in general, regular blood glucose readings should be done starting at age 45 and being done every three years after.

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    Vision

    All women 18 years of age and older should begin having annual eye exams. Once women are 61 years of age, annual vision exams are even more important per the American Optometric Association. If a woman has pre-existing eye conditions or conditions that may also affect the eyes, they may have to be tested more often.

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    Hearing

    Women of all ages can experience hearing loss. Women younger than 50, and every 10 years after, women should have their hearing checked as is recommended by the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Once a woman is 50 and older, they should have their hearing tested every three years.

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    Resources

    US Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age. Retrieved on November 20, 2010 from the US Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/healthywom.htm

    Mann, D. (2010). 5 Lifesaving Tests for Women. Retrieved on November 20, 2010 from WebMD: http://women.webmd.com/features/5-lifesaving-tests-for-women