Pap smears, mammograms, and blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings are medical tests most women know are smart for maintaining their health.
Here are three that might be less well-known, from the US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts that evaluates the scientific evidence for various health screenings and services.
Hepatitis C test
What it is: A one-time blood test for the hep C virus.
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Who should get it: Baby boomers. Adults born between 1945 and 1965 may have been exposed to contaminated blood that wasn’t rigorously tested. Widespread screenings didn’t go into effect until 1992, said Tasneem Bhatia, a board-certified physician who specializes in integrative medicine.
How often: Once. High-risk adults – typically past or current injection drug users – may need to be screened more often.
Why it’s so important: While all adults born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested, women who had C-sections before 1992 are at particular risk, since they may have received blood transfusions that weren’t screened for the virus yet. In many people, the liver disease can be a silent one, Bhatia says. If you don’t have symptoms, hep C could be wearing down your immune system and might lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer if left untreated.
What it is: A conversation with your doctor about your mental health.
Who should get it: All adults.
How often: There’s more and more evidence it should occur somewhat regularly, although most doctors probably screen patients for depression only when they notice small signs or symptoms, Bhatia says.
Why it’s so important: Mental health can feel intimidating to talk about, so making it a part of regular health care can get more people the help they might secretly need. Depression is twice as common in women than in men and is a leading cause of disability around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Screening can help identify the best course of treatment before it becomes debilitating.
What it is: A bone density test.
Who should get it: Women 65 and older.
How often: If you’re not at risk, every 10 years might be enough, Bhatia says. But for women with a family history of osteoporosis or a history of previous fractures, a doctor might recommend every other year, says Nieca Goldberg, medical director of New York University’s Tisch Center for Women’s Health.
Why it’s so important: The scan can alert your doctor to any slips in bone mass, “which would increase the risk of injury and of declining mobility,” Bhatia says.