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Six must-have medical tests for women

How often should you have mammograms? What about a bone density test? Dr. Tanya Benenson, an internist, shares her health-care prescription.
/ Source: TODAY

We’re zeroing in on six must-do medical tests for women. Dr. Tanya Benenson, an internist and the associate medical director NBC Universal New York City, was invited on “Today” to help you sort through all the conflicting information about what you need to do — when you need to do it. So here’s her prescription for your health-care tests:

Six must-do medical tests for all women
Mammograms: Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Start when you’re younger if there are risk factors. Risk factor: family history of breast cancer.

Cholesterol checks: Have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. If you have risk factors, you should start at age 20. Risk factors: if you smoke, have diabetes, or if you have other family members with heart disease.

Blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years for adults 18 years and older. Risk factor: Some doctor think that the age should be even younger, because of the prevalence of childhood obesity. These days they’re seeing high blood pressure in more and more teenagers.

Bone density test:  All women under the age of 65 should have one, but any post-menopausal women with risk factors should have one. Risk factors: smoking and thinness.

Colorectal cancer tests: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Have one earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer. Your doctor can help you decide which test — a fecal culture, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy — is right for you.

Pap test: Have a Pap smear every one to three years if you have been sexually active or are older than 21. However, your doctor may determine the frequency, based in part on past results. For instance, if you have three in a row that are normal and have no other risk factors — that is, you are married and monogamous — you can go longer without a test. But if you’re in your 40s, have multiple risk factors or use no barrier protection during sex, you would want to have annual exams.

Other tests for sexually transmitted diseases: Have a test for chlamydia if you are 25 or younger and sexually active. If you are older, talk to your doctor to see whether you should be tested. Also, talk to your doctor to see whether you should be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the leading cause of cervical cancer in this country and there is a test to detect it. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an HPV vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue guidelines for the vaccine soon.

Tests to do, if there’s a family historyDiabetes tests: Have a blood sugar test to screen for diabetes if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of the disease in your family. At 45, you should have the test done every three years.

Skin check: Have a full-body check from a dermatologist once a year. If you are fair-skinned, have atypical moles or have more than 50 moles, get checked twice a year.

Vision and hearing tests: Everyone over 65 should have these tests.