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Women’s Health Tests

When it comes to optimizing women’s health, women can complete screenings to ensure that they are in good health. It is important to be knowledgeable about the various types of tests and screenings that you can complete to ensure that everything from a physiological perspective is running optimally.

Types of Women’s Health Tests

What are women’s health tests?

Different types of tests are available to screen women to help ensure that they are in good health. While some of these tests are recommended throughout a woman’s lifespan, Harvard Health recommends various types of screening tests for women of all ages. Some of these tests include:

  • Blood pressure: This test is important to have completed every couple of years as a proactive screening and to have more frequently completed if numbers come back abnormal.
  • Bone density: Testing for bone density to help screen against osteopenia or osteoporosis is recommended for women over the age of 65 years old. It can be helpful to have a test pre-menopause, if possible, to help establish bone density baselines.
  • Breast cancer: Getting a mammogram completed every two years for women ages 50-75 years old is recommended. Once a woman is over the age of 75, she should consult her local healthcare provider to inquire about if she still needs to continue to test.
  • Cervical cancer: Getting a Pap test is recommended for women ages 21-65 years old. Once a woman turns 65, she should consult her local healthcare provider to inquire about if she still needs to continue to test.
  • Colorectal cancer: This screening is recommended for women ages 50-75 years old.
  • Diabetes screening: While having repeat labs conducted at least annually that are inclusive of a hemoglobin A1C test (Hgb A1c), getting screened for diabetes is most relevant if your healthcare provider feels that you are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
  • HIV/AIDS: This screening is recommended for women over the age of 20 years old.
  • Cholesterol: Having a lipid panel completed as part of routine lab work starting at age 20 is recommended. This is a helpful lab test to have completed annually.
  • Lung cancer: Screening for lung cancer between the ages of 55-80 is recommended for women who have a history of smoking.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Getting screened for STIs is recommended for women annually until the age of 24. After 24 years, you should get tested for STIs if you are at a higher risk of infection.

Who should get women’s health tests?

Mount Sinai and several other health and medical organizations recommend that all women, including those who are in good health, take the tests listed above as a proactive measure toward optimizing their health and well-being. While many may not know about several of the recommended tests listed above, it is important to take a preemptive approach to health optimization, rather than reactive.

Women who take the tests listed above may get more insight into their inner physiological functioning and help them to better understand their current health status. If you are unsure about where to begin, consulting a trusted healthcare provider about various tests and screenings is a helpful jumping-off point.

How to get women’s health tests

While there are several tests listed above, your doctor will provide you with detailed information about how to go about getting these screenings completed. Some of these screenings can be completed at an annual physical check-up, such as getting bloodwork conducted. If you are wanting to get more specialized screenings and testing completed, such as tests that screen for bone density, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and more, your primary care physician will likely need to refer you to a specialist who can run these tests and properly analyze the results for you.

What to expect during women’s health tests

If you haven’t completed the tests listed above, it can be helpful to know what you are going into ahead of time so that you can be best prepared. This is especially important for women’s health tests, as some can feel very personal and/or invasive.

For the sake of this article, we will focus on a few of the tests and what to expect during each:

  • Bone density: During a screening for bone density, also known as a DEXA scan, there are no special preparations needed before going for a test. During the scan, you will lie flat on your back on an x-ray table. Then, a scanning arm of the machine will pass over the body to measure the bone density of your skeleton. This usually takes around 10-20 minutes and should not be painful at all, notes the NHS. This test is also not typically invasive.
  • Breast cancer screening: During this exam, you will need to remove all clothing from the waist up and will be provided a gown to cover yourself. A qualified healthcare professional will feel the breast for lumps, using light, medium, and deep pressure. Many people choose to have a family member accompany them during this exam so that they feel more comfortable, as this test can feel more invasive. The exam is usually short, taking about 10 minutes or less, notes Cancer.org.
  • Labs: When you go for routine labs that check for diabetes risk, cholesterol levels, and more, a technician will draw blood in a laboratory or doctor’s office. The results usually come back within a few weeks, and your healthcare provider should review them with you. While getting blood drawn can feel uncomfortable due to the use of the needle, this discomfort is usually short-lived.

What to do if you get unwanted results from women’s health tests

While many women get normal results back from the types of tests listed above, there is no need to panic if your results come back abnormal. Depending on your specific circumstances, a healthcare provider will devise a plan to help optimize your health and well-being.

If you receive suboptimal results for the following tests, a personalized treatment protocol will be provided:

  • Bone density: Because bone density tests are used to assess bone health and to screen against osteoporosis and osteopenia, your test results could come back indicative of poor bone density. According to NHS, a score between -1 and -2.5 standard deviations is indicative of reduced bone density, and a score of 2.5 or below the standard deviation is diagnostic of osteoporosis. The good news is that you can take many interventions with diet, supplements, and lifestyle to manage these conditions effectively.
  • Breast cancer: Getting a call that breast tissue comes back abnormal from screening can be anxiety-inducing. The good news is that abnormal breast tissue is not always indicative of cancer, according to Cancer.org. Follow-up testing will be conducted to further assess breast tissue to see if the tissue is denser or calcified. Taking this process one step at a time is advised.
  • Labs: If you have labs that come back flagged as abnormal, your healthcare provider will also come up with a personalized treatment plan. For example, if you have elevated blood sugar and/or cholesterol levels, certain dietary, lifestyle, and supplement interventions may be recommended. The good news is that with these types of interventions, you may help improve upon many abnormal lab markers.

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