Making Sense of Women’s Health Tests and Screenings

Regular health checkups and screenings are important for all women, regardless of their health status. Tests and screenings serve as a preventive measure to safeguard long-term health. We understand that trying to determine which screenings to get and at what age one needs them can become overwhelming. Use this quick screening guide to care for your own health and encourage the women in your life to stay up-to-date on their health tests.

Recommended screenings and tests for women

A great place to start is with your primary care provider (PCP). Consult with your PCP on what health screenings she recommends for you based on your health history and risk for disease. Below are some types of screenings and tests she may recommend:

Gynecological health

Gynecology is a branch of medicine concerned with the health and care of the female reproductive system. Starting at the age of 21, women should have an annual pelvic exam to check the health of their reproductive organs. Women age 21 and older should also have a pap smear every three years or HPV testing plus a pap smear every five years beginning at age 30 to screen for cervical cancer. For women who are sexually active, this annual visit can include discussions around birth control options and preventing sexually transmitted infections. For women who are 65 years old and older, ask your provider about having a dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) or bone density screening that measures the thickness and strength of bones.

Mental health and safety

Pregnant women and women in their postpartum stages are at higher risk for depression and experiencing intimate partner violence. Most healthcare providers will screen patients for depression and domestic violence at every visit.

Cardiovascular health

Checking your blood pressure and cholesterol levels will alert you if you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Lovelace Health System offers a range of noninvasive tests for your heart and arteries that are designed to provide clarity and detail around possible illnesses. The majority of them are quick and you will have access to your results soon after the screening is performed.

There are different heart screenings designed to detect potential heart issues before they occur. One of the most common is the calcium score heart scan, a simple test that takes around 10 - 15 minutes. This can detect and measure plaque buildup lining the walls of your coronary arteries and help your doctor provide a treatment plan to help you reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke. Click here to learn more or schedule your $150 calcium scoring.

Breast health

Women over the age of 40 should have an annual mammogram. Patients with a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancer are at a higher risk of breast cancer. Lovelace’s Breast Care Center provides genetic risk assessments to help determine your overall risk of developing breast cancer. Our team provides education and will recommend strategies to help mitigate risk.

Colon health

Colon cancer screenings are recommended for healthy individuals who have no concerning symptoms starting at age 45. For individuals with a family history of colon cancer, screenings are recommended starting at 40 years old.

Lung health

Women between the ages of 50 and 80 who are a current or former smoker and have had a smoking history of at least 20-pack years should talk to their doctors about screening for lung cancer. Lovelace Cancer Center offers a low-dose CT (computed tomography) chest scan for lung cancer screening. The screening is simple, effective and can improve the outcome with early diagnosis.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for adults, especially older adults or those at increased risk of complications from the flu. Older adults should be vaccinated for COVID-19 and pneumonia, as well as the shingles vaccine around age 50. They should also receive a tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccine every 10 years. Ask your doctor if you are up to date on your other important immunizations.

Women’s Wellness Checklist

  • General health (weight, nutrition, general lifestyle)
  • Breast and gynecological health (including birth control and preventing sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Vision and dental health
  • Immunizations
  • Screenings
    • Heart disease
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Bone density
    • Mental health
    • Domestic violence
  • Immunizations for adult women
    • Annual flu shot
    • COVID-19 vaccine
    • Tetanus-diphtheria, at age 19, with a booster every 10 years
    • Shingles, age 50
    • Pneumonia, age 65
    • HPV vaccine, age 18-45
    • Hepatitis—ask your doctor if you’re at risk
  • Recommended Cancer Screenings for Women at Average Risk of Cancer
    • Breast cancer: every year age 40 to 74
    • Colon cancer: beginning at age 45
    • Cervical cancer: ages 21 to 65 with pap smear every three years or HPV plus pap every five years for women ages 30 to 65
    • Lung cancer: ages 50 to 80 for individuals with a heavy smoking history

Click here to learn more about Lovelace Cancer Center screenings.