May 25, 2012

Regular screening tests allow timely intervention

Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D.

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a healthy, 60-year-old woman. What screening tests do I need, and how often?

DEAR READER: Too many people wait until something is wrong before visiting their doctor. Keeping up with screening tests can help you identify and nip a problem in the bud.

I'll give you the general guidelines for a woman your age as laid out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As you'll notice, the frequency of some tests is left up to your doctor. How often you have these tests should be based on your personal and family medical history.

(1) Fecal occult blood test: yearly OR

(2) Flexible sigmoidoscopy: every five years OR

(3) Colonoscopy: every 10 years.

Finally, pay attention to your body. Keep an eye on new spots and bumps. Note changes in your regular patterns, be they in appetite, sleep, mood, energy or bowel habits.

We have more information on staying healthy as you age in our Special Health Report, "A Guide to Women's Health: Fifty and Forward." (Learn more about this report at, or call 877-649-9457 toll-free to order it.)

Screening guidelines change once you hit age 65, so revisit this topic with your doctor in a few years.

Dr.Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS.