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Recommended Screening Tests for Women 50 and Older

July 2002

Screening tests are good preventive measures. Periodic health screenings can help you and your doctor identify health problems early, when treatment may be most successful. Women 50 and older are encouraged to have a yearly general physical exam, including a variety of routine tests. These tests are detailed below. They are only guidelines; your doctor may suggest different or additional tests or specific timing for the tests, depending on a variety of factors.


Test What does it tell you? How often? Special Notes
Blood pressure Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Every 1-2 years
Many people living with HIV have blood pressure measured as a routine part of doctor visits, every 3 or 6 months.
Fasting blood glucose test Screening for diabetes Every 3 years Some people with HIV, especially those taking anti-HIV meds that include a protease inhibitor, may be having blood sugar levels checked regularly.
Bone mineral test This test helps to identify low bone mass, which can lead to fractures nd osteoporosis. Discuss with your provider Some anti-HIV meds are believed to cause bone mineral loss and other bone problems, like osteoporosis. Even younger women who are taking anti-HIV meds may want to consider screening.
Breast self exam Helps you to be aware of what feels normal and what doesn't. Talk with your provider about anything unusual. Monthly.
For the months with a scheduled mammography, do a breast self-exam close to the time of the appointment.
Some anti-HIV therapy has been associated with changes in body shape and composition (a condition called lipodystrophy). This includes breast enlargement. Thus, changes in your breasts might be due to drug side effects, making changes associated with other problems less noticeable.
Clinical breast exam, given by a doctor or healthcare provider, and mammogram A mammogram will help to identify cysts, calcifications and tumors in the breast and is the most effective way to detect early breast cancer. A doctor exam will help to identify unusual breast symptoms like swelling, nipple discharge. Annually Same as above
Lipid protein profile Total cholesterol: LDL (bad) cholesterol -- the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. HDL (good) cholesterol -- helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries. Triglycerides -- another form of fat in your blood. Every 5 years HIV has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, and some anti-HIV meds are known to raise cholesterol levels. Many people with HIV have cholesterol tests done regularly as part of routine lab work during regular doctor visits.
Eye and ear exam Eye and ear health Every 2-4 years
Pap smear and pelvic exam Cervical cancer and STDs Every 1-3 years after 3 consecutive normal tests Women living with HIV are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, symptoms of STDs and other GYN conditions. They are encouraged to have PAP smears twice annually and more frequently if results are abnormal. For more information, read Gynecological Conditions or call Project Inform's hotline at 1-800-822-7422.


A more comprehensive Screening Chart for women will be available on our website in the next few months.


Back to the Project Inform WISE Words July 2002 contents page.




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