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Tests Every Woman Needs

Screening tests can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Here are the tests recommended for women explained by Dr. Jennifer Potter, a physician at Fenway Community Health Center in Boston. Talk to your doctor about which ones apply to you and when and how often you should be tested.


Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. You can also find your own BMI with the BMI calculator from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Breast Cancer

Have a mammogram every one to two years starting at age 40 and yearly after age 50.

Cervical Cancer

Have a Pap smear every one to three years if you 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:

High Blood Pressure

Have your blood pressure checked at least every two 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.


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


Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. If you have felt "down," sad, or hopeless over the last two 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

Discuss your sexual activities with your doctor to determine the risk for sexually transmitted infections and need for testing. Yearly screening for chlamydia is generally recommended for women under 25 who are sexually active.


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.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted September 2011

Contact Information

General Medicine and Primary Care
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215