Screening Tests: What You Need and When

The most important things you can do to stay healthy are:

  • Get recommended screening tests.
  • Be tobacco free.
  • Be physically active.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take preventive medicines if you need them.

Screening tests can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Health experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have made recommendations, based on scientific evidence, about testing for the conditions below. Talk to your doctor about which ones apply to you and when and how often you should be tested.

Obesity: Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)

Breast Cancer: Have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40.

Cervical Cancer: Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years if you:

  • Have ever been sexually active.
  • Are between the ages of 21 and 65.

High Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. If you are younger than 45, talk to your doctor about whether to have your cholesterol checked if:

  • You have diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • Heart disease runs in your family.
  • You smoke.

High Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.

Colorectal Cancer: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be screened earlier.

Diabetes: Have a test for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Depression: Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. If you have felt "down," sad, or hopeless over the last 2 weeks or have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, you may be depressed. Talk to your doctor about being screened for depression.

Osteoporosis (Thinning of the Bones): Have a bone density test beginning at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis. If you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, talk to your doctor about being tested.

Chlamydia and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections: Have a test for chlamydia if you are 25 or younger and sexually active. If you are older, talk to your doctor about being tested. Also ask whether you should be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.

HIV: Have a test to screen for HIV infection if you:

  • Have had unprotected sex with multiple partners.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have used or now use injection drugs.
  • Exchange sex for money or drugs or have sex partners who do.
  • Have past or present sex partners who are HIV-infected, are bisexual, or use injection drugs.
  • Are being treated for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.