As we get older, we can become more vulnerable to certain health issues, many of which go unnoticed until they get serious and produce symptoms. Routine screenings are tests performed before symptoms appear, and designed to catch diseases when they’re contained and most easily treated. In this article, you’ll find some basic screening recommendations based on your age group to help you stay healthy now and going forward.
In Your 50s
Have annual wellness check-ups to monitor health measurements like blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), and have blood testing for glucose levels, triglycerides, cholesterol, thyroid function and other checkpoints as recommended by your doctor or clinician.
Have an annual skin exam to check for skin cancer. Begin having a dilated eye exam every 2-4 years to check for glaucoma, cataracts and other eye problems.
Have annual fecal immunochemical tests if in a low-risk group for colorectal cancer. For those with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy may be recommended at age 50.
Women should have a screening mammogram every 2 years and a cervical cancer test (pap smear) every 1-3 years, depending on results and doctor’s recommendations.
Men should have prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.
If you’re a current or heavy smoker aged 55 or older, talk to your doctor or clinician about low-dose computed tomography, or LDCT, a chest scan designed to catch lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
In Your 60s
Most clinicians recommend having a screening colonoscopy every 10 years unless you are at elevated risk, have symptoms of colorectal disease or had a questionable fecal immunochemical result, in which case more frequent testing may be advised.
Women aged 65 and older who have had clear pap smear results can usually stop having cervical cancer testing, per doctor recommendation.
Continue to monitor measurements like blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol and have routine preventative screenings. Include a hearing assessment test if you notice changes.
Talk to your doctor about immunizations you may need, including those to prevent pneumonia, the flu and shingles.
Current and former heavy smokers – talk to your doctor or clinician about annual LDCT lung cancer screening.
In Your 70s & Beyond
Remain vigilant about all the routine screenings, measurements and tests recommended above or by your doctor. The good news is that people with healthy test results can often stop having the following:
Mammography exams: Women aged 75 and older with no signs of breast cancer may be able to stop having them, per doctor recommendation.
PSA screenings: Men aged 70 and older may no longer need this test, per doctor
Continue to have annual immunizations for the flu and any needed follow-up vaccinations for pneumonia. Ask your clinician about updates to previous vaccines for tetanus, measles, meningitis and other viruses that may put you at risk.
The bottom line: Remaining informed about your health is one simple yet important thing you can do to help prolong the length and quality of your life.