Health checks and screening tests are an important part of disease prevention. There are several tests and examinations that women can have to help them stay healthy. See your General Practitioner (GP) to find out which checks you should have and when.
The recommendations below often refer to screening for the general female population — for women with specific risk factors for a particular disease the recommendations may be different. Your GP will be able to advise you if you are in any doubt.
|Health checks women should have|
|Disease or condition||Who should be tested or examined?||Test or examination||Frequency||Guideline|
|Bowel cancer (colorectal cancer)||People aged 50-74 years (those at increased risk should start screening earlier – talk to your doctor)||Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), also known as FIT (faecal immunochemical test)||Every 2 years (may be different for people at increased risk – ask your doctor)||RACGP 2016; Cancer Council Australia 2017|
|Certain people at increased risk of bowel cancer||Colonoscopy||Depends on the risk||RACGP 2016; Cancer Council Australia 2017|
|Breast cancer||For women of any age at average risk of breast cancer, Cancer Council Australia recommends breast awareness.||Breast Awareness – being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts. See your doctor if you notice any changes.||Ongoing self-assessments||Cancer Council Australia 2016|
|Women aged 50 to 74 years (available free of charge through BreastScreen Australia).
Women aged 40-49 also have free access to BreastScreen should they choose to have a mammogram. Women over 74 years may continue to have free mammograms but should discuss this with their doctor.
|Mammogram||Every 2 years||Cancer Council Australia 2016; BreastScreen Australia 2018|
|Women who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and those who have had breast cancer should check with their doctor about screening.||BreastScreen Australia 2015|
|Cervical cancer||All women between the ages of 25 (or 2 years after the first time of having sex, whichever is later) and 74 years should have cervical cancer screening tests||Human papillomavirus (HPV) tests||Every 5 years. Women at increased risk of cervical cancer may need more frequent testing||Department of Health 2017; Cancer Council Australia 2017|
|High blood pressure||People aged 18 years and older||Blood pressure measurement||At least every 2 years||RACGP 2016|
|High cholesterol||People aged 45 years and older; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 35 years and older||Cholesterol and triglyceride blood tests||Every 5 years||National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance 2012; RACGP 2016|
|Cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke||Risk assessment should be done in people from the age of 45 years (35 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults)||Risk assessment includes tests such as: cholesterol blood test, urine protein and albumin test, electrocardiogram (ECG), waist circumference and BMI measurements||Depends on initial risk assessment
Low risk: every 2 years
Moderate risk: every 6-12 months
High risk: regular review as advised by your doctor
|National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance 2012|
|Dental health||People of all ages||Check-up with dentist or oral check (examination of the mouth, teeth and lips) with GP||In general, oral checks at least once a year. People at increased risk should have more frequent check-ups with a doctor or dentist||RACGP 2016|
|Diabetes: type 2||People aged 40 years and older and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 18 and over||Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool (questionnaire given by your doctor)||Every 3 years||Diabetes Australia 2016-17; NHMRC 2009; RACGP 2016|
|People at high risk of type 2 diabetes||Fasting blood sugar (glucose) test or HbA1c test (glycated haemoglobin blood test)||Every 1 to 3 years (depending on risk)||Diabetes Australia 2016-17; NHMRC 2009; RACGP 2016|
|Glaucoma||People at increased risk of glaucoma, including Caucasian and Asian people older than 50 years; people of African descent older than 40 years; and people with a first-degree relative with glaucoma (eye checks should start 10-15 years earlier than the age their relative was diagnosed).||Eye health check by optometrist or ophthalmologist||Regular eye checks should be done after the first examination – your doctor will tell you how often you need to have eye checks.||NHMRC 2010; RACGP 2016|
|Hearing impairment||People aged 65 years and older||Hearing assessment||Every 12 months||RACGP 2016|
|Kidney disease||People at high risk, including those who: smoke; are obese; have a family history of kidney failure; have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or blood vessel disease; have had a kidney problem in the past; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples older than 30 years.||Kidney Health Check: blood pressure check; urine test to detect a protein called albumin; and a blood test to estimate kidney function (estimated glomerular filtration rate – eGFR)||Every 1-2 years||RACGP 2016; Kidney Health Australia 2015|
|Osteoporosis||Postmenopausal women with no history of fractures but who have certain risk factors for osteoporosis, such as: family history of osteoporosis; smoking; recurrent falls; drinking more than 2 standard drinks of alcohol per day;
vitamin D deficiency; low BMI; and low levels of physical activity.
|Dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan to measure bone density||Depends on initial scan results||RACGP 2016; Osteoporosis Australia 2017|
|Overweight||Adults aged 18 and over||BMI and waist circumference measurement||Every 2 years for those at average risk. Every year for those at increased risk||RACGP 2016|
|Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)||All sexually active people under the age of 30 years||Chlamydia testing (urine or swab test)||Recommended testing frequency depends on level of risk||RACGP 2016|
|People at high risk of STIs (risk factors include age, sexual habits and local community infection rates)||Chlamydia testing and possibly testing for gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis||Depends on level of risk||RACGP 2016|
|Skin cancer – melanoma||People at average or increased risk||Skin examination by your doctor or dermatologist||No set schedule||RACGP 2016|
|People at high risk of melanoma (people with a history of melanoma and those with more than 5 moles with an unusual appearance)||Skin examination by your doctor or dermatologist PLUS self-examinations of skin||Skin self-examinations every 3 months. Full body skin examinations by your doctor are recommended every 6-12 months||RACGP 2016|
|BMI = Body Mass Index
NHMRC = National Health & Medical Research Council, Australia
RACGP = Royal Australian College of General Practitioners