Think Healthy

Know Your Risks

Should your screening schedule change?

If a family medical history or a personal risk factor uncovers a potential predisposition for a particular disease or chronic condition, your physician may recommend additional or more frequent screenings. Here are a few highly abbreviated examples of how your screening schedule may change — consult with your physician for the right screening schedules for you.


For women at low or average risk, annual mammograms should begin at age 40 and continue for as long as a woman is in good health. For women with a strong family history, such as a mother and/or sister diagnosed at or before age 50, annual mammograms should begin ten years prior to the earliest diagnosis in the family. Annual MRI screenings may also be recommended for women at high risk.


Most women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test every 5 years. Women with certain risk factors may need more frequent screenings or screenings beyond age 65.


It is often recommended that men at average risk begin screenings at age 50, either performed annually or bi-annually, depending on test results and physician advice. Men with a family history with two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed before the age of 50 should generally begin annual screenings at age 45.


The general consensus is that annual screening for men and women should begin at age 50, although frequency may vary as per individual patient risk factors. Screening frequency ranges between five and 10 years, depending on previous results and the patient’s risk factors. For people with a family history of colorectal cancer, expertsrecommend that adults 40 years and older undergo annual screening, although continued debate concerning frequency of procedures warrants a detailed discussion with your physician.


The American Heart Association recommends a blood glucose test at least every 3 years. This is often the first test performed to screen for prediabetes and diabetes, although additional tests are needed to definitively diagnose diabetes. In addition, the American Diabetes Association has officially stated that screening frequency be based on a patient’s number of risk factors, which include advanced age, overweight or obesity, family history of type 2 diabetes, and being a member of a minority population that increases risk for type 2 diabetes.


Heart-health screenings generally begin around 20 years of age, although your physician may recommend additional and more frequent testing if your family health history includes two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed before the age of 50 with a cardiovascular condition, such as heart failure or atrial fibrillation; if you have a personal history of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events; or you have other risk factors.

Heart-health screening guidelines for those with low to normal risk factors include:

  • Blood pressure: Conducted every regular healthcare visit or once every 2 years.
  • Cholesterol: Conducted every 4 to 6 years or more often for those with elevated risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Weight/Body Mass Index: Conducted every regular healthcare visit.
  • Blood Glucose Test: Beginning at age 45; conducted at least every 3 years for those with a family history of cardiovascular disease.