9 essential health tests for women
As you get older, your health needs change. Are you and your doctor keeping up? From STD tests to colonoscopies, here are the most important health tests for women, according to Dr. Roshini Raj, TODAY contributor and medical editor for Health magazine.
In your 20s
1. Complete physical: Get your first at age 21, then once every five years until age 40, when you should start getting a yearly physical. Make sure to get checks on your blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid function, liver/kidney function, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
2. Pap test: This test can spot the earliest signs of cervical cancer, when the chance of curing it is very high. Get the Pap test at your yearly gyno exam, starting at age 21. At age 30, if you've had three consecutive normal results, you may only need a Pap every three years until age 65.
3. STD tests: Of the 19 million new STD infections each year, almost half of them are among 15- to 24-year-olds. If left untreated, some of these can lead to infertility down the road. Get tested annually for HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea when you become sexually active (or when you're starting a new relationship).
4. Skin check: Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death for women ages 25-29. The incidence among young women has increased by 50 percent over the last 30 years (largely due to the use of tanning beds). See a dermatologist annually if you have a family history of skin cancer, or semi-annually if you have actually had the disease.
In your 30s
5. HPV test: HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and most sexually active women get the infection at some point. Beginning around age 30, women become more prone to infection because our immune systems are less robust. Get the test at age 30 and then with your Pap every three years if results are normal.
6. Blood sugar test: Anything above normal should be checked out, so the doctor can intervene before it becomes full-blown diabetes. Get tested every three years until you turn 50, when you should be tested annually (the risk of diabetes increases significantly with age).
In your 40s
7. Cholesterol test: Start getting physicals annually at 40, and include this test particularly if you smoke or have high blood pressure, diabetes or family history of heart disease.
In your 50s
8. Mammogram: The overall risk of getting breast cancer increases with age — between ages 50 and 59, 1 in 42 women are likely to develop it. This number climbs to 1 in every 29 for women aged 60 to 69. Early detection and treatment help prevent the spread of the disease and boost your odds of recovery. Get one every two years.
9. Colonoscopy: Go in for the procedure at age 50, then every 10 years to screen for colorectal cancer, the second leading killer in the U.S. among all cancers. Adults 50 and over run the highest risk of developing the disease, but studies show that people who get a colonoscopy every 10 years have better outcomes if they do develop cancer.