The Medical Tests Every Woman Needs in Their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s

From eye exams to mammograms, here's what you really need–and when.

A lot of the day-to-day care that helps you lead a long and full life happens before anything's wrong with your health.

Unfortunately, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, millions of Americans don't keep up with their recommended preventive tests and screenings. Those exams can help you protect everything from your teeth to your heart to your eyes—and more.

Here are the tests and screenings recommended for women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) between 30 and 70, assuming you're at average risk for different health conditions. If you're at a higher risk for any diseases, talk to your healthcare provider about an appropriate screening schedule.

Medical Exams In Your 30s

Pap Smears

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)—an independent panel of experts that issues evidence-based guidelines on disease prevention—recommends getting a Pap smear every three years if you're 21 to 65.

A Pap smear is a test that detects abnormal changes in cervical cells that might signal pre-cancer or early cancer.

After 30, you can opt for a Pap smear combined with testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus that can cause genital warts, and some strains may cause cervical cancer

"If both of these are negative, you can repeat them every five years," Therese B. Bevers, MD, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center and prevention outreach programs at MD Anderson Cancer Center, told Health. "That would apply all the way through age 65."

Depression Screening

Since 2016, the USPSTF has recommended that all adults over 18—including those pregnant and postpartum—be screened for depression.

During a screening for depression, your healthcare provider will ask a set of questions. Examples of topics that your healthcare provider may ask you about include:

  • Your interest in doing things
  • Your appetite
  • Whether you have trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much

"If [patients] screen positive...we proceed with further questioning," Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, MD, medical director for GateHouse Treatment Center in Nashua, N.H., told Health.

Dental Exams

The National Library of Medicine recommends visiting your dentist every six months. Your dentist can clean your teeth and check for plaque, gum disease, and other oral health problems

Additionally, your teeth can provide clues about osteoporosis that your dentist might be the first to spot. Osteoporosis happens if your bones become weak and fracture easily. The condition worsens periodontitis, which causes tooth loss. Also, osteoporosis causes changes to the bones in your jaw that your dentist may spot on an X-ray.

Some evidence suggests that routine check-ups with your dentist may also help prevent oral or head and neck cancers from progressing.

Some people need more frequent dental exams than others. Check with your dentist about an optimal schedule for you.

Blood Pressure Screening

Blood pressure screening recommendations vary slightly among different organizations. The USPSTF suggests getting your blood pressure tested every three to five years starting at age 18. Then, you ought to have an annual test starting at age 40.

But, the USPSTF recommends getting tested more often than that if you have an increased risk for high blood pressure or if the reading is on the high end of normal. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends blood pressure screenings starting at age 20. The AHA also recommends redoing the test at least once every two years unless you've been diagnosed with previous blood pressure issues or have a family history of problems.

Cholesterol Tests

A fasting lipoprotein profile or panel measures total cholesterol as well as both LDL ("bad") cholesterol and HDL ("good") cholesterol after a brief period without eating.

The AHA recommends getting a baseline panel at age 20, then repeating the test every four to six years for people at average risk of high cholesterol.

Skin Exams

There are no official recommendations for skin exams. In 2016, the USPSTF concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to recommend routine visits to a dermatologist for people at average risk of skin cancer who don't have any symptoms.

But the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) encourages everyone to check their skin regularly. The AAD also recommends seeing a dermatologist if you notice any changes in your skin.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Test

If you've never been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI), consider receiving a screening as soon as possible. Everyone between 15 and 65 should test for HIV at least once, according to the USPSTF.

But if you're at a higher risk of infection, you should receive an HIV test more often or if you think you've been exposed to the virus. Risk factors for HIV include:

  • Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom
  • Testing positive for other STIs, like syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and bacterial vaginosis
  • Using and sharing drug paraphernalia, like needles and syringes
  • Receiving injections, transfusions, or transplants with unsterile equipment
  • Accidentally being exposed to needle stick injuries

Still, there are no specific guidelines on how often screenings should occur, so talk to your healthcare provider about what's right for you.

Additionally, all pregnant people should receive an HIV test. The virus can be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta during pregnancy. The fetus is further at risk during and after labor because HIV can spread through blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk.

If you're pregnant and HIV-positive, there are treatment options that can help make sure the virus doesn't pass to the fetus during pregnancy. 

Hepatitis C Test

The USPSTF recommends that adults aged 18 to 79 be screened for hepatitis C (HPC) infection at least once.

Based on your risk, your healthcare provider may recommend that you receive an HPC test more often. Risk factors for HPC include:

  • Being HIV-positive
  • Using and sharing drug paraphernalia, like needles and syringes
  • Having received maintenance hemodialysis
  • Showing abnormal alanine transaminase (ALT) levels
  • Having had received a transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
  • Healthcare providers 
  • People who were born to a parent with an HCV infection

Test Needed In Your 40s

Mammograms

As of November 2022, there are conflicting opinions about when and how often people should start getting mammograms to screen for breast cancer.

The USPSTF recommends mammograms every two years for people at average risk of breast cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until age 74. The organization says that the decision to have mammograms before that "should be an individual one."

The American Cancer Society (ASC) advises that people ages 40 to 44 can choose if they want annual mammography screenings. But people ages 45 to 54 should get annual screenings, and people 55 and older can continue yearly mammograms or switch to every other year.

Additionally, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of breast cancer and the screening routine that makes sense for you. That may include getting a breast cancer risk assessment in your 30s.

Eye Exams

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends getting a baseline eye exam when you turn 40 to check for early signs of disease or vision changes. Age-related farsightedness usually starts in your 40s.

After your first eye exam, your healthcare provider can tell you how often to return for a repeat screening.

Once you turn 65, check your eyes every year or two to monitor for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

Blood Glucose Tests

Blood glucose tests can help determine if your body is having trouble processing blood sugar, which can be a sign of prediabetes or diabetes. Screening methods include a fasting plasma glucose test and an A1C test.

People ages 35 to 70 who are overweight or obese should have their blood sugar levels checked regularly, according to the USPSTF.

Also, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that everyone have their blood glucose tested at age 35.

Checkups In Your 50s

Colorectal Cancer Screening

The USPSTF recommends that people at average risk for colorectal cancer start screening at age 50 and stop at age 75.

In contrast, the ACS advises that regular colorectal cancer screening starts at age 45 rather than 50. According to the ACS, research has found that colon cancer progressively affects younger populations.

But whenever you start, repeat screening timing varies after your first test. 

"The frequency is going to be determined by the risk depending on precancerous polyps," explained Dr. Bevers. 

For example, if no polyps are found after a colonoscopy, you can typically wait 10 years before having another. Other testing methods require more frequent screening. In any case, it's best to talk to your healthcare provider about colorectal cancer testing and how often to repeat it.

Lung Cancer Screening

The USPSTF recommends screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography for adults aged 55 to 80 who meet either of the following:

  • A 20-pack-year smoking history
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years

A pack-year is a way of measuring how much someone has smoked in the past. One pack-year equals an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for a year. A 20-pack-year history is a pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years, for example.

Hearing Check

In the United States, about one in three people between 65 and 74 have hearing loss to some degree. As many as 50% of people older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Still, the USPSTF advises that there is no clear evidence to recommend screening for hearing loss.

However, "routine hearing screenings may reduce the prevalence of under-diagnosed and under-treated hearing loss in adults," according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

If you suspect you don't hear as well as you used to, ask your healthcare provider about screening.

Screenings In Your 60s

Thyroid Screening

The USPSTF does not recommend routine thyroid screening. On the other hand, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests it after 60. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if this is for you.

Your healthcare provider may recommend checking your thyroid hormone levels at a younger age if you have symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding 

Bone Measurement Test

Bone measurement tests screen for osteoporosis. Those tests can measure whether you have a bone condition or are at risk of developing one. One of the most common tests is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which measures bone density.

The USPSTF suggests osteoporosis screening for all women aged 65 or older. But you may want to get one earlier than that if you have risk factors, such as long-term steroid use.

A Quick Review

Staying up-to-date on your regular check-ups and screening tests can be a valuable tool for protecting your health. Preventative health services can catch illnesses before they advance.

Still, some people are at a higher risk for some diseases than others due to family history or lifestyle risk factors. So, it's essential to communicate with your healthcare provider about the tests suitable for you and how often you should receive them. 

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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