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Life-Saving Screenings

Preventive tests can save lives by finding problems early, when they’re easier to treat.

Suppose you learned that 16 national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine wanted to help take care of you. Would that make you feel like you were getting the best care possible?

We’ve just described the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The Task Force makes preventive care recommendations for people who are at average risk for a condition. People who are at increased risk may need to start screenings at a younger age. The end goal of these medical professionals is to keep you healthy.

Lets review some of the most common screening recommendations from the Task Force. Be aware that other national health organizations and professional medical groups may have slightly different recommendations, that may also be used to help make decisions that are right for you.

Which screenings you need, at what age and how often, should be discussed with your doctor. You may need more tests or have screenings more often if you have certain health risks.



Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked are advised to have a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Alcohol misuse

Adults ages 18 and older should be routinely screened.

Breast cancer

Screening for women recommended every two years from ages 50 to 74.

The decision to start screening mammography prior to age 50 years should be an individual one. Women who place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms may choose to begin biennial screening between the ages of 40 and 49 years.

Cervical cancer

Women ages 21 to 65 are advised to get a Pap smear every three years. If you're between the ages of 30 and 65 and want to be screened less often, you may have a Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea

Screening is recommended for sexually active women ages 24 and younger and in older women who are at increased risk for infection.

Colorectal cancer

Recommended for people ages 50 to 75. A colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or a fetal-occult blood test may be used. Each may have its own risks and benefits. People with risk factors may need to start screening earlier.

Cholesterol (blood lipids)

Regular screenings for adults ages 40 to 75.

Diabetes (type 2)

For adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese, screening for abnormal blood glucose is recommended as part of assessment for cardiovascular risk.


Recommended in adults when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place to assure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and follow-up. This includes women who are pregnant or postpartum.

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Adults ages 18 and older should have periodic blood pressure checks.


All adults should be screened regularly for obesity by measuring their body-mass index (BMI).


Routine screening is recommended for women over age 65 and for post-menopausal women who are under age 65, but who are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

These screening recommendations are accurate as of July 11, 2018, and are subject to change. For the most up-to-date recommendations, please visit

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Editor


United States Preventive Services Task Force. Recommendations for adults. Accessed July 11, 2018.
United States Preventive Services Task Force. Browse information for consumers. Accessed July 11, 2018.

Updated August 6, 2018