The New Year is here, and whether or not you’re looking for a new you, it’s a good time to take stock of your body to make sure you’re starting off the decade with a clean bill of health. But what screenings do you really need? A lot of that depends on your age and your risk factors.
We’ve put together a quick list to make it a little easier for you. As always, you’ll want to talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.
Annually (or as recommended by your provider)
Your physical exam is your No. 1 way to stay in good health. Because annual physical exams help create a baseline for your health, they can prevent long term problems and provide early detection so if you do have an issue that needs to be addressed, you can catch it before it becomes a much bigger issue.
The other benefit of annual exams? They’ll often cover the other screenings you need so you don’t have to schedule multiple appointments, and if they don’t, your provider will at least be able to tell you what other screenings you need. So this is the best place to start.
Blood Pressure Screening
Men & Women Ages 18-39, every 2 years
Men & Women Ages 40+, annually
Your blood pressure is a great indicator of your overall health, so it’s important to keep an eye on it. While you may only need screenings every other year when you’re younger, if your top number (systolic) is above 120 or your bottom number (diastolic) is above 80, you should have it checked annually, regardless of age.
Men starting between the ages of 20 and 35, every 5 years
Women starting between the ages of 20 and 45, every 5 years
Your provider will let you know when it’s time to start screening your cholesterol, but typically you’ll have your first test between the ages of 20 and 35 for men and between the ages of 20 and 45 for women, and then every five years after that, if you have normal levels. Because high cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke, keeping an eye on your levels with regular screenings can help you live a longer, healthier life. As they say, a healthy heart is a happy heart (and even if they don’t say that, they will now).
Skin Exams and Cancer Screenings
Men & Women ages 35+, annually (depending on certain factors)
Your skin is your body’s biggest organ, but it often gets overlooked, especially because total body skin exams aren’t always included as a part of an annual physical. If your provider doesn’t include one, you’ll want to start getting screened annually at 35 if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer or certain physical features (think light skin, blonde or red hair, freckles, sun damaged skin, history of indoor tanning).
Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear
Women 21-29, every three years
Women 30+, every five years (when combined with HPV testing)
For some women, a pelvic exam may be included as a part of your annual physical. If it’s not, you’ll want to be sure you’re being examined at least every three years or as recommended by your provider, starting at age 21.
Women 21+, annually (self exams as recommended by your provider)
Breast exams—different than mammograms—include a physical exam looking for changes in your breast tissue. Many providers include these as a part of your annual well woman exam. Check with your provider to find out how often you should be doing self exams.
Women ages 40+, every 1 to 2 years
Unless you have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t need to worry about that first mammogram until you turn 40, and then you only need one every one-to-two years. Now, if you have a mother or sister who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, you’ll want to consider yearly mammograms starting before the age your relative was diagnosed. When in doubt, ask your provider.
Men ages 18+, annually (self exams as recommended by your provider)
Usually a part of your annual physical, the testicular exam is the number one way of preventing testicular cancer.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Men ages 50+, as recommended by your provider (depending on history)
Prostate exams aren’t a routine screening for men without symptoms, but once you hit age 50, you should go ahead and discuss it with your provider to see if you have risk factors that would require regular screening. For men with a family history or a relative who was diagnosed younger than the age of 65, this conversation should happen when you’re 45.
Men & Women 18+, annually (depending on lifestyle)
Testing for sexually transmitted infections is based more on your lifestyle than your age or gender. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, annual screenings are a good idea. Most annual wellness exams don’t automatically include STI exams unless you’re showing symptoms, so be sure to ask.
Men & Women 18-44, only if you have high blood pressure or other risk factors
Men & Women 45+, every 3 years
Not sure if you need to be tested for diabetes? If you’re young and healthy, probably not. But as you get older—or if you have high blood pressure, a BMI above 25 or a family history—you’ll want to be screened every three years, or as often as your doctor recommends.
Lung Cancer Screening
Men & Women 55+, annually (depending on history)
Are you a smoker? Were you a smoker? If you smoked at least 30 packs a year and are still smoking or quit within the past 15 years, then you’ll want to be screened annually.
Men & Women 50+ (with risk factors)
Women 50+ with fractures
If you’ve got risk factors for osteoporosis, you’ll want to start that first screening at age 50 and then discuss additional screenings with your provider. Think long-term steroid use, low body weight, smoking, heavy alcohol use. Ladies: If you’re 50+ and have fractures, it’s time to talk to your doctor about a bone density test.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Men & Women 50+, annual screenings + colonoscopy every 10 years
Unless you have risk factors like a strong family history, you typically won’t start screening for colorectal cancer until you’re 50. There are a handful of tests your provider will work into your screening schedule, including annual, three-year, and five-year exams. Most people will only need a colonoscopy every ten years.
Compare Screening Prices
Once you’ve talked with your doctor about their recommended procedures and screenings, you can compare upfront, inclusive prices with MDsave so you can stay healthy and make sure you’re getting the best price for the best care.