Health screenings: What's needed after 50

HOUSTON – By the time you reach 50 years old there are several health screenings you should regularly get. Some once a year, some once every few years, but they start at 50 and can be a huge health risk if you miss them.

Dr. Emueje Ophori, Harris Health System / UTHealth family physician, tells patients older than 50 that it's time to be consistent with health checks.

An Acres Home grandmother, Michelle McBride, said she'll do everything her doctor tells her in order to keep up with her five grandchildren. She said she is most concerned about her blood pressure.

“My sister passed at a young age, so I really try to keep up with it (blood pressure). McBride said. “I really try to keep up with my health.”

Ophori said, for her age, that should include colon screenings.

“A colonoscopy is recommended for people with a strong family history or personal history of cancer,” she said. “But just for the general population, low risk patients that are not at higher risk for cancers, we do this fecal test every year.”

Although many women start before 50, a mammogram is not required until then.

“Some governing bodies say between the ages of 40 and 50 you can do bi-annual exams based on risk factors. Across the board, everyone agrees by the age of 50 all women should be getting annual mammograms.

By 50, Ophori says all women should be getting pap smears every three to five years. Men can choose to start screenings for prostate cancer.

“So we kind of looked at the risk of prostate cancer versus the benefits of doing these invasive procedures and it turns out that doing this yearly PSA or blood test for prostate cancer was not worth it. Now we're doing it on a case by case basis,” she said.

McBride said the health screenings may seem daunting at first, but they're important to have, in order to keep what's important.

“Keeping up with their health so they can prepare themselves for the grands,” she said.

After 50, Ophori also recommends an annual flu shot, cholesterol screenings and a one-time shot for shingles. Otherwise, all of the screenings are looking for cancer, the most important one to find early after 50 is colon cancer.