GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – An important part of keeping yourself healthy is scheduling routine health screenings which can detect potential problems early.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, we spoke with an OB-GYN about the 7 medical screenings every woman should have.

Women can take charge of their health by getting checked at the right times.

“Early detection allows for early treatment, which is key to preventing these end-stage diseases.”

Dr. Heather Hoy, OB-GYN, Bon Secours St. Franics

Dr. Heather Hoy, an obstetrician-gynecologist, says many screenings happen at the recommended annual “well-woman” visit but narrowed down the list to the most important.

“I believe the seven most important screenings to be pap smears, which is a screen for cervical cancer, screening for sexually transmitted infections, mammograms, colorectal cancer screening, bone scan, or a DEXA scan, which is a screen for osteoporosis, diabetes, and lipid screening,” said Dr. Hoy.

A clean bill of health after routine screening is the hope. But, if there is something concerning, early intervention could be lifesaving.

“For example, cervical cancer is cancer that is completely preventable, and one that mostly affects relatively younger women. If you get regular pap smears, you can catch cervical cancer when it’s still in its pre-cancer phase, and therefore, treat it before it even becomes cancer at all,” said Dr. Hoy.

Dr. Hoy says pap smear screening should start at 21 years old.

“You should get a pap smear every three years if you’re under 30 years old, and every five years if you’re over 30 years old,” said Dr. Hoy.

For sexually transmitted infections, she says, you should be screened yearly once you become sexually active, up until you’re 24 years old.

Then, at 40 years old, start getting a mammogram screening every year.

“However, you might need to be screened at an earlier age, if you have certain risk factors,” said Dr. Hoy.

How often you are screened for colorectal cancer depends on the screening method.

“That can vary from every three to ten years, starting at age 45,” said Dr. Hoy.

Bone scans aren’t recommended until you are older, usually beginning at age 65, every 15 years.

But two critical screenings start much earlier.

“Diabetes should begin at age 35 years old, every three years. Lipid screening should begin at 40 years old, every five years,” said Dr. Hoy.

Doctor Hoy says setting up any one of these 7 screenings is as easy as picking up the phone.

“A woman should talk to somebody like me, a gynecologist, or your primary care physician if they feel comfortable with well, woman care,” said Dr. Hoy.

The recommended age for routine screenings for women may vary depending on any pre-existing conditions, family history, and other risk factors. Your provider will be able to tell you when to start.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.