Health Matters: Time to schedule a screening

Part of maintaining good health is getting regular screenings to check for disease even before you have symptoms.

Below are the recommended screenings and timelines for men and women. You and your health care provider can develop your own schedule for each screening based on your personal risk for each disease and your overall health.

For Women Only: Breast Cancer: For women, it is generally recommended that women start having mammograms at the age of 40. Women should have yearly mammograms, however lower risk women can have a mammogram every other year. It is important you talk with your primary care physician whether a mammogram is right for you based on your age, family history, overall health and personal concerns.

Cervical Cancer: Women between the ages of 21 to 65 years old who have been sexually active should have a Pap smear every one to three years. You may not need one if you are older than 65 and recent Pap smears were normal or if you have had a hysterectomy for a reason other than cancer. Osteoporosis (Bone Health): Have a screening test for this disease at age 65 or sooner if your health care provider recommends it.

Chlamydia: Women 24 or younger and sexually active should have a screening for Chlamydia, as should any aged woman who is pregnant. If over 24, speak with your health care provider for a recommendation.

For Men Only: Prostate Cancer: The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends against men having prostate cancer screening before the age of 75.

If you have a family history, you may need to be screened earlier. Each of these organizations have different reasons for their recommendations and it is best to have a discussion with your physician to decide what is right for you.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA): Recommended if you are between the ages of 65 and 75 and have ever been a smoker. AAA is a bulging in your abdominal aorta, the largest artery in your body. An AAA may burst, which can cause dangerous bleeding and death.

For Both Women and Men: Colorectal Cancer: You should have a screening test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 or sooner if you have a family history of the disease. Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for detection of colorectal polyps or cancer.

High Blood Pressure: Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every two years.

Diabetes (High Blood Sugar): Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medication for high blood pressure.

Depression: Speak with your health care provider about screening for this disease if, in the last two weeks you have felt down, sad, or hopeless or if you've felt little interest or pleasure in doing things you usually enjoy.

High BMI: A body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25 indicates a healthy weight. Find your BMI by using a BMI calculator such as the one at: Speak with your health care provider if you BMI is higher than 25.

High Cholesterol: Starting at age 20, have your cholesterol checked regularly if you use tobacco, are in the obese range for your BMI, have diabetes or high blood pressure or a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries, or if a man in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a woman, before age 60.

HIV: Talk with your health care team about HIV screening if you or your partner have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, have injected drugs; have exchanged sex for money or drugs; or if either of you have had a sex partner who is HIV-infected, bisexual, or injects drugs; if you are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease; if you had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985; or if you have any other concerns.

Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Speak with your health care provider for a recommendation.

This year, take a proactive approach to your health. Be sure to check in with your primary care provider to find out what health screenings you need and then schedule them.

For more information on health screenings, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at or the National Cancer Institute at

Dr. Joshua Samuelson is a family medicine physician with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians and cares for patients at SVMC Northshire Medical Center in Manchester. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Samuelson, call 362-4440. To learn more about how SVMC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock are working together for a healthier community, visit "Health Matters" is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public matters and public policy as it affects health care.


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