Fact Sheet: Screening for Older Adults

American Public Health Association 

Only one in three older adults is getting all recommended health screening measures.[1] Older adults can live stronger, longer by making sure they get all health screenings on the schedule recommended by their doctor.

  • Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Early detection greatly improves chances of survival, yet over 40 percent of older adults have never had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.[2]

  • Timely mammography screening among women older than 50 could prevent at least 17 percent of all breast cancer deaths, but more than one in five women over age 65 has not had a mammogram within the past two years.[3]

  • Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, but can be treated if detected early.[4] Almost 30 percent of older men have not had a recent prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and over 40 percent have not had a recent digital rectal exam.[5]

  • High blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, is the most common chronic condition among older adults.[6]

  • Because high blood pressure does not have any noticeable symptoms, regular blood pressure screenings are critical.

  • More than 20 million Americans between the ages of 40 and 74 have higher than normal blood glucose levels, a condition called "pre-diabetes." If detected early, lifestyle changes can prevent the onset of diabetes.

  • Glaucoma - a serious vision condition that can lead to blindness - is treatable if detected during routine vision screenings.[7] Other vision problems that can cause falls are easily corrected if detected during an annual screening.

  • An estimated 34 million older adults have low bone mass, placing them at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.[8] If diagnosed early, osteoporosis can be treated with new drugs that help strengthen bones before life-threatening fractures occur.[9]

  • Colon Cancer - Colonoscopy every 10 years or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.

  • Breast Cancer - Yearly mammogram and clinical breast exam for women over age 65.

  • Prostate Cancer - Annual PSA tests and digital rectal exams for men over age 50 with a life expectancy of at least 10 years.

  • Diabetes - Annual glucose test.

  • Blood Pressure - Blood pressure test at every medical exam, at least every one to two years.

  • Vision - Annual vision screening.

  • Osteoporosis - Women over age 65 should be tested at least once for osteoporosis.

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