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Real Money: A timeline of FSA-eligible screenings all women should get
They say age is just a number, and while we tend to agree, it can also be an excellent reminder of important health screenings. We rounded up a comprehensive list of the screenings you should be thinking about at each milestone age. Bonus? Your FSA can offset the costs of these screenings.
Now, we're not doctors. But we are patients. And the following article represents a series of tests and procedures recommended to us as we age. Always speak to qualified medical professional before changing your health routine.
A pap smear can elicit all sorts of feelings from younger and older women alike. But this is one test that's definitely necessary, and relatively painless. Starting at age 21 (and every three years after) this test is done at your annual OB/GYN visit. Your doctor will gently scrape a few cells from the cervix, which are then checked for cervical cancer.
Likewise, high cholesterol probably isn't at the top of your list of health concerns in your 20s, but the American Heart Association recommends you have your cholesterol checked starting at age 20 and every 4-6 years afterwards. This test is done via your general practitioner with a blood test.
In addition to a pap test, you should also make it a priority to have a human papillomavirus (HPV) test once you hit 30. This test also looks for traces of some types of HPV on your cervix. The most common sexually transmitted infection, HPV can also lead to fun things like genital warts (sense our sarcasm here) and even cause some types of cancer.
HPV tests are no longer needed for those over age 65 who have had regular test results for the past 10 years. For those who hate needles, sorry. Even if you received the vaccination for HPV, you should still follow these screening guidelines.
You should start getting regular mammograms between the ages of 40-44 and yearly from ages 45-54, according to the American Cancer Society. For those 55 and older, screenings every two years is sufficient.
So why are mammograms important? Basically, a mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that helps doctors detect early signs of breast cancer – up to three years earlier than it can be felt.
At age 45 and every three years after, you should also be screened for Type 2 Diabetes.
Risk factors for this disease include being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, or if you have polycystic ovary syndrome or had gestational diabetes.
Ah, the dreaded colonoscopy. Experts recommend regular colorectal cancer screenings like a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and at regular intervals thereafter. Colorectal cancer usually begins from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which is why this test is so important. If your colonoscopy finds any polyps, they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
And though this test can be a bit of a headache – going under general anesthesia is required, and the prep can be brutal – it's definitely one you shouldn't skip.
Your 60s and up...
You may be ordering off the senior citizen menu, but you aren't exempt from health screenings just yet. Osteoporosis screenings should become a part of your regular healthcare routine at age 65 and usually every 2 years after.
An osteoporosis screening tests for low bone density, which can cause an increase in broken bones down the line.
Whether you're 20 or 65, you owe it to yourself – and your health – to make regular screenings a thing. And if your coverage doesn't apply to all of the above tests and procedures, it's reassuring to know your FSA is there to alleviate the out-of-pocket costs.
Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.