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Video: 9 must-have health tests for women

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    >>> this morning on "today's health" tests that could save your life. many women are good about getting regular checkups but there are exams you need that are essential to living longer. dr. raj, good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> aside from the annual gynecology exam every woman has to get there are not many tests that you need to do.

    >> yeah. i mean, we've going to break it down. people get overwhelmed thinking of the different tests, but by decade there are a few you have to be on top of.

    >> in the 20s, the first is a complete physical which tests for whatle exactly?

    >> you will be tested for blood sugar , a sign of diabetes, tested for high blood pressure , make sure that's in check. in your 20s people feel like they are invincible but there are diseases we can screen for early on. cholesterol, liver and kidney function. you may be checked for thyroid disease if you have a family history . even things like vitamin b12 and d we find many young people are deficient.

    >> you say you don't need a complete physical every year.

    >> right. if you're healthy and don't have a family history you could stretch it to every five years but check with your doctor.

    >> go through all the tests as well. pap test , why is it so important in the 20s?

    >> for women this is essential. it helps detect early signs of cervical cancer and even precancerous changes in the cells of the service. this is a cancer that's deadly but when detected early can be cured. if you're sexually active you want to get that test because you can contract hpv which we think causes cervical cancer .

    >> make sure you schedule that. next, the std test . this applies to women who are sexually active.

    >> women may have more than one partner during that time. you're at a high risk for stds. many are silent, meaning no symptoms. so be checked for chlamydia, hawai hiv, gonorrhea. if you're sexually active you should be checked annually.

    >> next, skin tests in your 20s. you say you have to check yourself for irregular moles and you can do it yourself.

    >> you should absolutely check yourself head to toe in the mirror for a new mole or ale mole changing in shape, contour or color. if you have a family history of skin cancer you need a dermatologist to do it or if you have skin cancer you may need to go more than once a year. melanoma is a cancer that's rising compared to 30 years ago.

    >> leading cause of cancer deaths in 20-somethings.

    >> women aged 25 to 29.

    >> if you have a family history go to the dermatologist. now to women in their 30s. most critical test is hpv.

    >> now we are talking about the infection which is often transient meaning a woman will clear the infection but in your 30s you will have a more persistent infection which increases the risk of cervical cancer . now the pap smear is crucial.

    >> then you have the blood sugar test ultimately to prevent diabetes.

    >> right. diabetes has so many complications associated with heart disease , stroke, peripheral vascular problems, blindness. you want to get on top of it. your doctor will be careful in your 30s screening for elevated blood sugars.

    >> and in your 40s, cholesterol tests and mammograms really in the 50s.

    >> right.

    >> you should be doing it beforehand but that's when you have to do it annually.

    >> and colonoscopy.

    >> absolutely.

    >> turn 50r, you have to get it.

    >> the rite of passage at 50. thank you very much. more on the website, todayshow.com.

TODAY
updated 2/2/2011 9:44:43 AM ET 2011-02-02T14:44:43

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.

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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).

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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.

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