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What Health Appointments Should Women Make as They Age?

May 30, 2024 • read

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What Health Appointments Should Women Make as They Age?

As women get older, their healthcare needs change. While scheduling the usual check-ups, screenings, and immunizations remains important, there are a few new tests and boosters you need to add to your to-do list as you reach a new decade. 

That’s because your risk of certain diseases, disorders, and cancers increases over time, and practicing proactive health by getting tests done even before symptoms arrive may help improve longevity and quality of life. Forty-five percent of Canadians live with a preventable disease, and following health recommendations could extend their lives by up to 10 years

In this blog, we outline the appointments and screening tests you need to take control of your health. 

Doctor appointments women should make annually, no matter their age

Primary care providers

Starting around age 18, it’s time to switch from a pediatrician to a family doctor or general practitioner. A family doctor helps you maintain good health by providing physical exams to collect information about your health, check vital signs, and track your health trends over time. They also ensure you get necessary screenings and vaccinations depending on your age, health history, and family health history to prevent illness and promote longevity.

If you’re among the 6.5 million Canadians without a family doctor and don’t know where to seek care, you can check in with a Canadian-licensed doctor or nurse practitioner directly with Maple if you have questions about how to start seeking care. Specialists can also be booked directly on Maple without a referral, and there are a range of psychotherapists, psychologists, and mental health physicians who can offer you care on an as-needed basis.

If you don’t have any urgent health concerns, you may not need to visit your doctor every year for a check-up. Depending on your age and health risks, you can wait a little longer between visits. Your doctor will let you know when they want to see you again.


Preventive health and screening for women

It is recommended that healthy adult females are screened for:

Blood pressure

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke and should be checked regularly by a healthcare provider. This screening is particularly important for women since more Canadian women than men are diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat found in the blood that can form fatty deposits on your artery walls and block blood flow. The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends a cholesterol screening to anyone 40 or older, or younger for those with risk factors for heart disease. Early detection of modifiable risk factors can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease by up to 80 percent.

Diabetes

Over 3 million Canadians are living with diabetes. Diabetes is when your body cannot produce insulin or it cannot properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas produces; it regulates how much glucose (sugar) is in your blood. Diabetes Canada recommends getting tested with either a fasting glucose and/or a hemoglobin A1C blood test every three years starting at age 40.

This should be done sooner if you’re at a high risk — meaning, you’re overweight or prediabetic, have a close relative with diabetes, have high blood pressure, or have a history of heart disease.

Osteoporosis

Over 2.3 million Canadians live with osteoporosis, a reduction in bone mass. It’s a disease that’s significantly more common in women than men. Your healthcare provider may recommend a bone density test (an X-ray that measures the strength and density of your bones) if you have a broken bone from a minor injury, have a condition that causes bone thinning (like hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis), have a family history of the condition or if you smoke or get limited exercise.

Osteoporosis Canada recommends all women age 65 and older have regular bone density tests to check for osteoporosis.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

If sexually active you should be screened regularly for chlamydia and gonorrhea, because most often these infections have no symptoms at all.

Vision

Appointments with an optometrist are important not only because they can ensure you’re seeing clearly (or write a prescription to make that happen), but they can also help prevent certain eye conditions. Adults between 20 and 64 should have an eye exam every two years, but those with diabetes should have one every year. After age 65, you should have an eye exam every year since you’re more at risk of getting weakened vision and having an eye condition.

Hearing

Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sounds, whether gradually or suddenly. It can occur at any age, and it has many causes. Contact your healthcare provider for a test if you’re experiencing any issues such as an inability to hear whispers, hear with one ear, or listen at high decibel levels. 

Routine dental care

Dental health experts recommend teeth cleaning once or twice a year, depending on how well you care for your teeth and gums if you have dental problems and how fast tartar builds up on your teeth.

Just be sure to visit your dentist at least once a year — they can help with proactive dental care, treating issues before they worsen.

Cancer screening for females

Skin cancer

There are many skin woes — like acne, psoriasis, or unwanted wrinkles — that might prompt you to book an appointment with your dermatologist. With the increasing strength of UV rays and higher rates of melanoma, it’s important that your skin is screened for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers regularly. This can be done by your doctor or a dermatologist. 

Of course, seeing a specialist like a dermatologist isn’t always easy — you need a referral, and it can take months to get in. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, virtual care might be the right option for you. If you’re in Toronto, you can try our mole scanning service to learn if you have any suspicious spots.

Have a question about a skin condition or hair loss? Dermatologists on Maple who can offer advice and a prescription if necessary, and are available for direct booking without a referral.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Canadian women — one in eight women is predicted to get breast cancer in their lifetime. But mammograms can help. They involve an X-ray that delivers a picture of the breast’s internal structure to screen for cancers that cannot be seen or felt.

Screening recommendations are about to change in Canada: 

  • Current recommendations are for women to start having mammograms at age 50. Ontario is reducing the age to 40 in the fall of 2024 because experts say 50 is too late. 
  • Starting mammograms early and being diligent about getting them every two years will better allow for early detection and higher rates of cure. 
  • Self breast-examinations can be done at home and help you become familiar with your body and detect any changes. Although The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health recommends against self breast-examination due to the chances of increasing anxiety and leading to unnecessary tests. Ultimately, it is your call if you wish to do them. 

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women across the globe. Looking at Canada alone, one in 168 women is expected to develop cervical cancer in her lifetime, and one in 478 is expected to die of it. This type of cancer is caused by cells in the cervix that change over time — but a cervical cancer screening can spot these changes, so your healthcare provider can monitor and treat them if necessary.

Screening includes: 

  • A Pap smear (also called a Pap test) and/or 
  • a human papillomavirus (HPV) test (HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause diseases ranging from genital warts to cervical cancer) 

Both screening tests use a swab to collect cells from the cervix, which is then sent to a lab for testing. Canadian healthcare experts recommend women receive cervical cancer screening:

  • Every three years starting around age 25 and continuing until about 70 — unless there are changes to the cells, in which case you’d need more frequent screenings. 
  • After 70, if your three previous Pap tests have been normal, you don’t need another Pap or HPV test.

Lung cancer

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in 14 women will develop lung and bronchus cancer in their lifetime, and one in 21 will die from it.

If you actively — or used to — smoke or consume tobacco and are between the ages 55 to 74 you should get screened for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan once every three years until advised to stop.

Colorectal cancer

About one in 18 women will develop colorectal cancer in her lifetime, and one in 43 will die from it. Screening tests can include a stool test completed at home, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, or a colonoscopy (using special cameras to look inside the rectum and bowel).

Indications for screening for colorectal cancer include:

 

  • If you are aged 50 to 74 and not at high risk, you should have a stool test every two years.
  • If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, or inherited conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or have Lynch Syndrome screening will begin at an earlier age, to be determined with your doctor. 
  • If you are over 75 you should consider stool testing with your doctor.
  • If you’re experiencing any persistent changes in bowel habits, blood in stool, or abdominal pain, speak to your doctor immediately — they may recommend an investigation like these screening tests.

Your healthcare provider will advise on how often you need to repeat the screening.

Immunizations

Here’s a breakdown of recommended vaccines, and when you should get them:

  • Diptheria, Tetanus: For everyone every 10 years
  • Herpes zoster (shingles): For adults 50 and older without contraindications
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): For women 26 and younger, and those 27 and older if they have a risk of exposure
  • Influenza: Annually for all adults without contraindications
  • Measles, mumps: For those born in 1970 or later 
  • Meningococcal conjugate: For healthy adults 24 and older
  • Pertussis: For everyone 18 and older
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide 23-valent: For everyone 65 and older
  • Polio: Everyone in Canada
  • Rubella: For susceptible adults
  • Varicella (chickenpox): For susceptible adults between ages 18 and 49 

Medical conditions females should seek care for

Perimenopause and menopause

By 2025, it is estimated that over 1 billion women will have experienced menopause across North America. Despite it’s prevalence, there continues to be a lack of public knowledge on the topic affecting so many women. Perimenopause and menopausal (absence of menses for one year) symptoms can cause: 

  • Physical symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness or irritation, or pain with intercourse.
  • Emotional symptoms including mood changes, irritability, and quicker to anger or a reduced libido.
  • Mental symptoms including difficulty concentrating and short-term memory loss, or difficulty falling or staying asleep.   

Even though this is a natural, and unavoidable process women will endure through their lifetime, you do not need to suffer through these uncomfortable symptoms. Speak to your healthcare provider about treatment options that feel right for you. 

Mental health

One in five Canadians experience mental illness. Women have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders, in fact, they are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Symptoms of a mental health disorder could include:

  • Mood changes, such as excess anger or irritability 
  • Loss of interest in activities or socializing 
  • Reduced sex drive 
  • Frequent worrying 
  • Behaviour changes, changes to sleep or eating habits 

Mental health disorders can be treated with lifestyle modifications, medications, and/or various therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy or psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider will help you determine what is the best treatment for you, such as psychotherapy or medication. 


As you navigate the different stages of life, staying on top of your health through regular screenings and check-ups is crucial. Proactive health measures, such as these, can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious diseases, disorders, and cancers.

Remember, your health is your greatest asset, and investing in it through preventive care is a powerful step toward a healthier, longer life.


The information presented here is for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the advice from your medical professional. Virtual care is not meant for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency like chest pain or difficulties breathing, for example, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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