The Medical Tests Every Woman Must Have

The essential med­ical tests women need in your 30s, 40s, 50s.


In your 50s, add a …

Colonoscopy
The doc will insert a long, flexible tube with a small camera on the end through your rectum to check for polyps (small growths that can become cancerous over time) while youre sedated. Any suspicious growths are immediately removed for testing.

Why you need it: The risk of colon cancer—the fourth most common cancer in women and men—increases with age. Its often curable if detected early.

How often you need it: Every 5 to 10 years, unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Start testing earlier if you have a family history of the disease.

Tip: If youre nervous, bring your iPod. Research shows that listening to your favorite music can help you tune out anxiety and require less sedation.

Thyroid Test
This blood test checks your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Why you need it: High TSH levels can mean hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid), which can cause unexplained weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, and brittle nails. And low levels indicate hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which is marked by a fast pulse, insomnia, and weight loss that cant be attributed to diet or activity changes. Thyroid problems are more common in older people.

How often you need it: Every five years. But if you start to notice symptoms earlier, dont wait to get checked. The American Thyroid Association is pushing for screening to start at age 35.

Tip: A thyroid problem can be temporary. Up to 10 percent of women develop one after giving birth, but 90 percent will return to normal in six to nine months. “A thyroid problem is often mistaken for postpartum blues,” says Mark Wiesen, MD, chief of endocrinology at Hackensack University Medical Center. If youre pregnant, talk to your doc about getting tested after delivering your baby.

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Rachel Grumman
Last Updated: April 19, 2009

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