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ASK THE EXPERTS

CHRISTINE CONWAY, MD.

Patient Question

There is so much confusing and contradictory information in the media about screening tests for women.  What should I believe?


CHRISTINE CONWAY, MD.
CHRISTINE CONWAY, MD.

Assistant Professor

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine

Medical Director, Ambulatory Operations

Expert Answer

Your personal "health check list" should be tailored to your age, personal risk factors and, most importantly, family history. It should include health education, appropriate screenings, and healthy lifestyles choices.

Pap Smears
Annual Pap smears are important, but they only screen for diseases of the cervix, and are not a test for uterine or ovarian conditions or diseases. Women should have their first Pap smear at age 21 or when they become sexually active; whichever occurs first. A complete pelvic exam should accompany the Pap smear.


Physicians diagnose diabetes with a fasting blood glucose test, which is a simple blood test. The test measures the sugar in your blood.

Ovarian Cancer Screening
Screening for ovarian cancer, accomplished using transvaginal sonography, is not recommended for the general population, but should be done for women with a family history of the disease. There are promising efforts to develop a blood test that detects ovarian cancer. Researchers at Stony Brook University's School of Medicine are studying blood proteins and gene testing to identify individuals at risk for developing the disease.

Colon/Rectal Cancer Screening
Colon/rectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in women, following breast and lung cancer. Annual screening by rectal/occult blood testing should be initiated by age 40 to 50. Men and women should obtain their first screening colonoscopy after age 50.

Bone Health
Bone health is an important issue. Women should have their bone density tested at the onset of menopause.

Heart Disease
Screening for heart disease risk factors is important for women as well as men. This includes:

  • Blood pressure testing (all ages)
  • Cholesterol and lipid testing (by age 35)

Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising more, and weight reduction/control are important to prevent heart disease and some cancers.


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