TODAY

TODAY   |  May 16, 2013

5 must-have medical tests

Dr. Keri Peterson of Women’s Health magazine shares the latest information on must-have screenings for women, explaining how often you should have your blood pressure, thyroid, and other functions checked.

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>>> this morning on "today's" health, must-have medical test for women. dr. carrie peterson is here to talk about some preventive procedures to help take control of your health and save your life. she's a contributor to "women's health" magazine. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> that's an important listing of all of these tests. starting first with blood pressure . now what range should it be in? and how often should you get your blood pressure checked?

>> the ideal blood pressure is 120/80 and normal below 135/85. it should be checked every two years starting in your 20s and if it's normal every two years is sufficient, if it's high, it will be needed to be checked more frequently than that.

>> and if you have a history of high blood pressure in your family, something to keep an eye on.

>> if there's a family history , tell your doctor.

>> cholesterol check, a lot of people getting it checked every year. what are they looking for and what are the normal levels? what is considered bad cholesterol ?

>> you should start getting your cholesterol checked in your 20s, as well. and if it's normal which is total less than 200, or ldl, less than 130, then you can wait five years to get your next check. but some people still like to know their numbers, they ask for it more frequently. but that's not necessary unless it's high.

>> now, a lot of women don't have their thyroid function necessarily checked out unless they start feeling certain symptoms. what are some things to, you know, think about and talk with your doctor with and when should you get your thyroid checked out.

>> if you have no symptoms, it's not recommended to have it checked, however, if you're experiencing symptoms of an over or underactive, you should. and symptoms would include fatigue, weight gain , constipation and hair loss . if it was overactive, it would be nervous, rapid heart rate and weight loss .

>> okay. so definitely get those tests, as well. now mammogram and there's a lot of confusion, especially given more recently new guidelines about how often women need mammograms after age of 40.

>> there's two sets of guidelines, the american cancer society and the united states task force . they do not agree. however, physicians are still generally following the acs guidelines which is getting them annually after age 40. of course, if you have a family history , you may need to start sooner than that. so always discuss with your gynecologist your family history and you can make a plan that's best for you.

>> now, clinical breast exams also shouldn't be ruled out. you should be doing that in conjunction, right?

>> there are conflicts between the two societies' guidelines, the acs guidelines do say that in your 20s and 30s, do a clinical breast exam every year, every three years and after your 40s every year.

>> but there's a conflict, talk to your doctor.

>> your doctor makes sure there's no lumps there. pap smears, we know they can prevent cervical cancer . what do women need to know and should they be getting it every year?

>> they don't need it every year if it's normal. in your 20s, you can do it every three years if it's normal. after age 30, every 3 to 5 years if it's normal. if it's abnormal, you'll need it more frequently.

>> women should talk to their doctors about all the std screenings and the hpv tests?

>> that's right. there's a new dna test that is routinely done now starting at age 30 at the time of your pap smear . so your gynecologist should be doing that already but you can talk about it. and with regards to stds, they are out there and prevalent. if you have a new partner or multiple partners, ask to be checked.

>> colonoscopy, how often do you do them?

>> starting at age 50, every ten years, unless you have a family history , start sooner.

>> thanks so much.