Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

Four Screenings at 50

Posted by Women's Health Team on Jan 8, 2018 2:00:00 PM

cervical_health.jpgLadies, now that you've celebrated the big 5-0, it's time to focus on your health and get the screenings you need.

There are several things a woman should put on her to-do list when she turns 50. Buying a new dress and booking a getaway are acceptable options, but after the birthday party, add one more important thing to that list—schedule a doctor's appointment. Or two. Here are the four screenings no 50-year-old woman should go without.

1. A Mammogram is a Must
Hopefully, you had your first mammogram at 40. If you haven't been back since then or haven't had one yet, it's time to make an appointment. "The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is age," says Nancy Lee, MD, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. "Although younger women are diagnosed with breast cancer, most women who get breast cancer are older than 50."

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that many will confirm is not nearly as uncomfortable as you might imagine, and certainly less uncomfortable than cancer. "It's the best screening test for breast cancer," Lee says.

To Do: Make time for a mammogram every one to two years.

2. Testing Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure tends to rise with age, Lee says, so keep going to those yoga classes, but also make sure you know where your numbers stand. "When blood pressure remains high over time, it can damage the various organs in the body," she adds. This can lead to heart failure, aneurysms and heart attack, to name a few conditions.

To Do: Have your blood pressure checked yearly, at minimum, or more often if it's higher than it should be.

3. Be Punctual About Your Pap
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month so let it be your annual reminder to schedule your annual exam.

“A Pap test can save your life. It can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer,” Lee says. If caught early, the survival rate is high.

The screening is quick and can be done during a woman's yearly exam. Lee estimates Pap tests reduce the rate of cervical cancer by nearly 60 percent.

To Do: Pap tests should be performed every two to three years up to age 65.

4. Prevent Colorectal Cancer
This is the screening many of us shudder at the most. But fear not. Like many screenings, the hype usually induces more anxiety than the actual event. Plus, there are several screening options for colorectal cancer: fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, stool DNA test, colonoscopy and CT colonography. Talk to your doctor about which is best for you, and how often it should be done, which varies by test.

“If colorectal cancer is found in its early stages, it is up to 90 percent curable,” Lee says. And that's important as women reach 50, because more than 90 percent of people with this type of cancer are diagnosed after 50, Lee adds.

To Do: Colorectal cancer screenings should continue until age 75. Talk to your doctor about how often you should get one.

Need to schedule an appointment? Search Beaufort Memorial’s provider directory.

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