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Women’s health screening guidelines by age

Read our women’s health screening guidelines to learn about the preventive screenings you need based on your age, health and family history.

June 19, 2023

It is best to be proactive about your health before there's a problem. An annual physical exam can help detect serious issues early on, and they’re important for women of all ages. You may also need to schedule additional screening exams and tests, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, based on your age, health and family history.

Here are some of the essential women’s health screenings you should have on your radar — plus, recommendations on when and how often they should be repeated.

Blood pressure screening 

High blood pressure can increase your heart disease and stroke risk. Most physical exams and checkups include blood pressure tests, which measure the force or pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps.

Starting at age 20, you should have a high blood pressure screening at least every two years. Adults over 40 should have a blood pressure test, or hypertension screening, every year.

You can keep an eye on your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by recording your numbers in a tracker. It can let you know if your reading is healthy and help you track changes over time so you can discuss them with your doctor.


Blood tests provide insight into your overall health and help physicians detect disease and medical issues. Common blood tests check for cholesterol levels, vitamin deficiencies, metabolic panels and blood disorders. Conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. So, preventive screenings are important.

Typically, adults under 40 should undergo an annual routine checkup by a healthcare provider who will ask questions to determine what blood tests are recommended. Adults over 40 should undergo annual blood testing. Based on risk factors such as your age, overall health, lifestyle habits and family history, you may need to be screened more frequently. 

Pulse oximetry test

A pulse oximetry test is used to measure the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of the blood. This test involves placing a clip-like device on your finger or ear lobe to calculate how much oxygen is in the blood to determine if more oxygen is needed.

Your provider may perform a pulse oximetry test as part of a routine examination. You may also receive this test if you have symptoms such as shortness of breath or a condition affecting your breathing – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, heart failure or COVID-19.

Cervical cancer preventative screening

Cervical cancer preventative screenings can include pap tests and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, which can both be included as part of your annual well-woman exam. However, you may not need both tests annually. 

At age 21, you should begin receiving pap tests every three years to screen for cervical cancer. At age 25, you should begin having human papillomavirus (HPV) tests every five years. These guidelines should be followed even if you have been vaccinated against HPV. After age 65, the tests may stop as long as you’ve been tested regularly, with normal results, for the past 10 years.  

It’s important to note: Women with risk factors such as family history, smoking and HPV infection may be advised to have more frequent exams. This includes women aged 65 and over.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) test

If you have unprotected sex with a new partner or more than one partner, you could be at risk of an STI and should talk to your doctor about being tested. Be truthful about your sexual history during your annual physical exam. It’s important to give your provider accurate information so they can make recommendations for testing and frequency.

STI tests can often be conducted during your annual well-woman exam or a routine physical exam. They may involve a blood test, urine sample or swab from your mouth, genitals or other affected area.

Breast cancer screening

If you are under age 40, your provider may perform a clinical breast exam, or physical examination of the breasts, as part of your annual physical or well-woman exam every one to three years. If you are at high risk of breast cancer or have any symptoms, your provider may perform the exam more frequently.

Beginning at age 40, women with an average risk for breast cancer should have a mammogram annually. A mammogram is a type of X-ray used to examine your breasts. It can show changes that may indicate signs of cancer. Mammograms are good at detecting early stages of breast cancer, often before people experience symptoms. The earlier the disease is detected, the more likely it can be treated successfully.

It is also recommended that you regularly perform breast self-exams at home.

Skin cancer screening

Your provider may or may not recommend a professional skin exam every one to three years. Their recommendation will depend on your risk factors. People at high risk of skin cancer often have red or blonde hair, fair skin, several moles, a family or personal history of skin cancer or are frequently exposed to the sun. 

Let your doctor know if you notice potential signs of skin cancer, such as new moles or moles that have changed in appearance.

Colorectal cancer preventative screening

The most common procedure used to identify cancer or pre-cancer in the colon and rectum is a colonoscopy. People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should undergo a colonoscopy beginning at age 45. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you are considered high-risk, your doctor may recommend screenings at a younger age and more frequently. 

During a colonoscopy, a specialist uses a long, flexible tube with a light and small camera at the end to look for abnormalities, such as polyps. Polyps are growths that can become cancerous over time. Suspicious polyps can be removed, if necessary, during the exam.

Other screening options include CT (virtual) colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and at-home stool tests, which may have to be performed more frequently. Talk with your doctor about the best option for you.

Lung cancer screening

Annual lung cancer screenings using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) are recommended for people aged 50 to 80 with a 20 pack-year smoking history who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. 

A pack-year describes the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime. If you have smoked a pack a day for the last 20 years or two packs a day for the last 10 years, you have 20 pack-year history.

Lung cancer screenings typically require a physician’s referral. If you have a history of smoking or if lung cancer runs in your family, ask your provider for their recommendation.

Bone density test

The standard bone density test is known as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It is used to measure bone loss in your hips and spine and to diagnose osteoporosis. When bone density decreases, your risk of fracture increases.

Women age 65 and older should have a bone density test. Those who may need an earlier preventative screening include women who smoke, have low body weight, consume three or more alcoholic drinks daily or have a family history of osteoporosis. Women age 50 and older may need screening if they’ve fractured a bone.

Detecting weakened bones or bone loss may indicate a need for lifestyle changes to help improve bone health. These can include getting more calcium in your diet, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.

Preventative screenings are key to maintaining your health. At HCA Florida Healthcare, we want to keep you up-to-date on all the women’s health screening guidelines. We can also help you find a doctor. Learn which preventive screenings are right for you.

June 19, 2023

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