Ask the Nurse

What should a preventative maintenance program for a woman over age 65 look like? I scheduled a pap smear and pelvic exam with my family doctor, and she did not think this was necessary at my age. However, she did not discuss why or discuss what checkups I should be scheduling at my age.

Kudos to you for being proactive about your health. A preventive maintenance program for a woman should include the following:

  • According to the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer, screening should be done yearly by Mammogram and with a clinical breast exam.
  • Pelvic exam should be done yearly to evaluate the tissue lining the vaginal, which is extremely important in postmenopausal women who may experience vaginal atrophy due to loss of estrogen. Samples to screen for cervical cancer with a Pap smear and HPV should be done every 5 years for women over the age of 30. Screening for cervical cancer with Pap and HPV can be discontinued at the age of 65 if you have had three consecutive negative Paps or a hysterectomy for benign reasons.
  • Colon cancer screening for most individuals begins at the age of 45 depending on risk factors and is repeated every 5-10 years depending on findings.
  • Screening for osteoporosis should be done in all men and women over the age of 65 with DEXA (also known as Bone Density) or prior to age 65 depending on risk factors.
  • General lab tests such as cholesterol, TSH for thyroid function, Vitamin-D 25 level, screening for diabetes with either a fasting or random glucose and HgbA1c - interval for screening is based on risk factors which should be discussed with your provider.
  • Vaccines:
    • Influenza vaccine yearly
    • Tetanus vaccine every 10 years with at least one booster of Tdap to protect against Pertussis
    • Shingrix which is indicated for prevention of Herpes Zoster (Shingles), recommended for those 50 years and older and should be given at least 4 weeks apart from Pneumovax (Pneumococcal)
    • Pneumococcal protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria that can cause pneumonia, recommended for all adults 65 years of age or older (can be given sooner depending on risk factors)

I hope that this information was helpful. For more information on what health screenings women in their 60s should be getting, watch this helpful video from our very own Executive Director, Dr. Holly L. Thacker.

In addition to the above mentioned, you should also make sure you are up to date on dental and eye exams. Feel free to further discuss these recommendations with your primary provider.

All My Best,
Speaking of Women's Health Nurse

May 14, 2013 at 2:08pm