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Medical Tests Every Woman Needs

Updated on May 31, 2011
talk to your doctor to make sure you get the testing you need
talk to your doctor to make sure you get the testing you need

RULE BREAKERS: When Should You Get Screened More Often?

If you have a family history of heart disease... Go for regular cholesterol checks (Your M.D. will determine the best schedule.)  Also, if you are experiencing symptoms, ask if certain screening methods, such as an electrocardiogram or an exercise treadmill test, are right for you.

If you have a family history of breast, ovarian or colo-rectal cancer... Find out how old each first-degree relative was when diagnosed.  Some doctors recommend beginning screening 10 years earlier than the age of the diagnosis of the youngest affected relative. Have relative first-degree relatives who have had ovarian or breast cancer?  Perhaps talk to a genetic counselor to assess your risk.

If you are overweight or obese... In addition to regular blood pressure checks, keep close tabs on your glucose levels.  (Sheeding 5 to 10 percent of your weight can neutralize your diabetes risk.)  Thyroid problems can also cause weight gain, so ask your M.D for a test.   

Make a mental checklist of all the things you do to keep yourself healthy.  You probably thought of your workouts, your diet, and maybe even your daily vitamin.  Good!  But if keeping up with your medical exams is not on your list of healthy behaviors, you are falling into the mistake that many fit women make: thinking regular exercise plus good nutrition exempts you from getting routine exams.  To really keep your body healthy, here is what you need to know.

Pap Smear

Who To See: Gynecologist

Why: Collecting cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam is the best way to tell if your cervix is healthy - cell changes can lead to cervical cancer.

How Often: Are you between 20 and 29? Had an abnormal Pap Smear? Get screened once a year. Once your 30, after three normal results you are in the clear for up to three years.

Check Out This New Technology

Clinical Breast Exam

Who To See: Gyno or general practitioner (GP)

Why: She can see or feel abnormalities in breast tissue, skin and nipples that can indicate cancer.

How Often: At least once every three years in your twenties and thirties. But if youn want to be checked more often, just ask. After age 40, go once a year.

Fast Fact

Dermatologists are better at diagnosing melanomas than primary care doctors, a recent study finds.  The result of better screening?  Higher survival rates. 

Skin Cancer Screening

Who To See: Dermatologist 

Why: She can ID weirdly shaped moles or other growths that might be cancerous or precancerous.

How Often: Get new or changed growths assessed ASAP.  If you are a current or recovering tanning bed or sun lover, are fair or dotted with moles or freckles or have a family history of skin cancer, see the dermatologist twice a year.  If not, at least go once a year.

hearing test equipment
hearing test equipment

Fast Fact

One in eight U.S. adults surveyed say they are too busy to get a vaccination, reports the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Hearing Test

Who To See: Audiologist or certified speech language pathologist

Why: Peppering conversations with "Say that again?" is a real problem for the more than 12% of people in there twenties and thirties who already have some form of hearing loss, according to a recent study.

How Often: Once every 10 years until age 50, then every three years.

Immunization Check

Who To See: Your GP

Why: Up to date vaccinations protect you from all kinds of diseases, including some you thought went the way of the dinosaur, such as whooping cough.

How Often: At your next physical, have your M.D. review your vaccination history. Some inoculations become less effective over time, so you may need a booster.  For example, tetanus shots are vital every 10 years.

Fast Fact

In the U.S. about one in eight women ages 20 to 44 has high blood pressure. Taking the pill, pregnancy and being overweight can up your risk.

Blood Pressure

Who To See: Your GP

Why: The higher it is, the greater your chance of having heart disease, a stroke or kidney damage.

How Often: Once every two years if it is 120/80 or below.  If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension  - or your doctor says you are at risk - measure your BP at home on a regular basis too.  (Digital cuffs that do all the work for you, like those from is a good choice).

What Is Cholesterol

Cholesterol Panel

Who To See: Your GP

Why: High cholesterol means you are at a higher risk for heart disease. You want your total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL; LDL (bad cholesterol) under 100 mg/dL; HDL (good cholesterol) 60 mg/dL or more; and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL.

How Often: At least once every five years, starting at age 20.

BMI chart
BMI chart


Who To See: Your GP

Why: Pick a disease, any disease: Chances are, being overweight puts you at greater risk. Your M.D. should weigh you and calculate your body-mass-index, the measurement of your weight relative to your height.

How Often: Once a year. And if you're


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    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      Very important checks. I've never had a Cholesterol Check. I often think it's for people in their 50s+. This Hub has made me think twice about it. Thanks.

    • ldparker10 profile image

      ldparker10 7 years ago

      really useful hub cheers