Health In Your Sixties: What Every Woman Needs To Know

Posted on: 4 April 2016

If you are a healthy, active woman in her sixties, you've undoubtedly experienced your share of pelvic exams and mammograms. While you know they are necessary, they probably aren't your favorite medical appointments. Understanding when it is safe to stop the annual pap smear and mammogram and when other screenings are called for is important to your health.

Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears: If you are in your sixties, you were probably told in the 70s that you need a pelvic exam and pap smear every year. You have likely complied ever since. While that has been the standard for over 60 years, it all changed in 2012 when the new guidelines were published in Annals of Internal Medicine recommending women between the ages of 21 and 65 receive a pap smear every three years or a combination of pap smear and HPV testing every five  years. Women over 65 do not need to have a pap smear.

Some medical professionals continue to recommend pap smears every year or every other year, but research does not support the need in healthy women. If you have a family history of cervical cancer, have had a least one abnormal result in the past 10 years or have other health risks, your doctor may recommend continuing pap smears beyond the recommended age of 65. Talk to your doctor about any risk factors that affect the need for prolonged pap smears. Those who have symptoms related to the vagina, cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, or ovaries should continue to get a pap smear and pelvic exam.

Mammograms: The American Cancer Society recommends women over 60 have a mammogram every two years, as long as they are expected to live at least 10 years. Some women may also be required to undergo MRI screening, but this is not common. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns or questions about the schedule you should follow for mammograms.

Other OB/GYN Issues: Just because you don't need a pap smear any longer is no reason to sever the ties with your OB/GYN provider. Older women often suffer from a variety of conditions, including vaginitis and yeast infections that are best treated by an OB/GYN doctor. Other conditions your OB/GYN is skilled in treating include pelvic disorders, pelvic pain and painful intercourse.

Other Health Screenings:

Freedom from the pap smears may feel like a "get out of jail free" card, but you will likely more than make up for it with increased health appointments for other areas. Don't forget to get these screenings regularly to maintain your health as you near the golden years.

  • Vision: Cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma are all known to affect people as they age.  Nearly everyone has some degree of vision loss as they age; regular checkups will help keep your eyes healthy and preserve your vision.
  • Hearing: Not everyone suffers from hearing loss as they age, but many do. Stay ahead of the game and have your hearing tested regularly.
  • General Health: This may include monitoring weight, blood pressure, cancer risks and any health conditions you have. Once a year is typically recommended, unless you have health issues (like diabetes or heart disease) that need closer monitoring.
  • Bone Density: A bone density test is recommended at age 64 to assess the condition of your bones.
  • Colon Cancer: Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy or other tests to assess for colon cancer in women over 50.

Life in your sixties can be liberating as you finally have time to pursue new hobbies and do the things you've always wanted to do. Taking care of yourself both physically and mentally is an important part of aging. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact a clinic like Billings Clinic.