Screenings for Every Stage of Life

By Darlene M. Morgan M.D.
Ocean Medical Center

As a woman, caring for those you love may be one of your most important priorities. But don’t forget to take care of yourself, as well.

We can help. Below are guidelines for preventive screenings that women need throughout their lives.

“These guidelines are general, so be sure to talk with your doctor about what is right for you,” says Darlene Morgan, M.D., of Ocean Medical Center.


When You’re 18 to 39

  • Cervical cancer: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should begin screening starting at age 21. “Women ages 30 and older who have had three negative Pap tests in a row can reduce screening to every three years,” says Dr. Morgan.
  • Breast cancer: The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women in their 20s and 30s have a clinical breast exam done at least every three years.
  • Blood pressure: All adults ages 18 and older should have their blood pressure checked once a year to ensure it’s lower than 120/80 mm Hg. If yours is higher, your doctor may recommend more frequent screening.
  • Cholesterol: Adults ages 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. Total cholesterol should test lower than 200 mg/dl; triglycerides should be lower than 150.

When You’re 40 to 49

  • Cervical cancer: “If your Pap tests have been normal, continue getting screened every three years,” advises Dr. Morgan.
  • Breast cancer: The ACS recommends yearly clinical breast exams and mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Blood sugar: Starting at age 45, women should have their blood sugar tested every three years to test for pre-diabetes or diabetes. After an overnight fast, normal blood sugar levels should be 99 mg/dl or lower.

When You’re 50 and Older

  • Cervical cancer: Women ages 70 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row, and no abnormal tests in the past 10 years, can stop having this test.
  • Endometrial cancer: “Following menopause, women who have bleeding or spotting may need evaluation for this cancer,” says Dr. Morgan.
  • Colon and rectal cancer: People with an average risk for colorectal cancer should get screened beginning at age 50. Ask your doctor which test you should have.

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