GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– Forty is the new fifty when it comes to breast cancer screening for women.

A couple of months ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the age recommendation for mammograms to save more lives.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, we spoke to a nurse practitioner, about when to start other critical screenings for women and when to stop.

Gynecological exams can be lifesaving–catching cancers and other problems early on.

Lynnette Beyerle, a nurse practitioner, says your well-woman visit at the OB/GYN office should include three different types of exams.

“We start with a breast exam, to check for any abnormalities that we may feel, any lumps any masses, any abnormal nipple discharge. We also do a pelvic exam, which includes just checking the outer area to make sure that there are no abnormalities that can be seen… Check the ovaries for any masses or other abnormalities we could feel on the exam. And then there’s also the pap smear test that we include in and that is to screen for cervical cancer if that’s indicated,” said Nurse Beyerle.

For most women, pap smears will start at age 21.

But, some may choose to start their routine exams sooner, and that’s okay!

“Annual or routine exams, they can really start at any age… If anybody has any concerns, any issues, any, you know, if they’re wanting to start birth control, if they want any, you know, if they want to talk about vaccinations, it really can start at any age,” said Nurse Beyerle.

You may be able to wait longer between pap smears now since the American Cancer Society no longer recommends them every year.

Nurse Beyerle says, “Of course, that is dependent on previous testing and any abnormality seen on previous testing. But, there are some patients that can go three to five years in between having pap smears.”

Beyerle says pap smears can stop at a certain age for some patients.

“If you’re older than the age of 65, and you’ve had adequate testing and normal results, then we can consider discontinuing paps nears at that age”

Lynnette Beyerle, Nurse practitioner, Bon Secours St. Francis

However, for most patients, Beyerle recommends keeping up with the well-woman visits for life.

“If the patient still has not had a hysterectomy and still has a cervix and the uterus and ovaries, it’s still recommended that you come in annually for a OB/GYN exam.”

Lynnette Beyerle, Nurse practitioner, Bon Secours St. Francis

Beyerle says it’s important to note that it’s recommended girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11, well before their first well-woman visit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends boys get the HPV vaccine at the same age.

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