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What are the recommended health screenings for young women?

For healthy women under the age of 40, there are not many screening tests recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). A Pap screen is recommended every three years beginning at age 21. Above age 18, all women should be screened for high blood pressure at routine medical appointments by checking blood pressure. If sexually active, women should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases by testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea at age 24 or younger; also in older women who are at increased risk for infection, according to the US Preventive Service Task Force. A syphillis screening is recommended for pregnant women. Women considering pregnancy should be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if they have not been before.

The many roles that women play often cause them to neglect your own health. You need to tune in to your health needs. Pencil time onto your calendar for some important health screenings. Even if you feel great on a daily basis, it's important to get a reality check with an annual physical. During your exam, your doctor may schedule or perform routine health screenings for skin cancer, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, colon cancer and many other conditions that affect both men and women.

Because you are a woman, you'll also need a few other special screenings. Here are some of the key checkups that all women need, based on the advice of leading health agencies and medical organizations:

  • Pelvic exam: No one looks forward to it, but a pelvic exam is well worth the trouble because it allows your doctor to monitor the health of several key pelvic and reproductive organs and spot things like infections, sexually transmitted diseases, fibroids, cysts or any other abnormalities. Ask your doctor how often you need this exam; it's often coupled with a Pap smear.
  • Pap test: Cervical cancer can be beaten—especially when it is detected early. Pap tests are a critical tool in that early detection. Women should begin getting them at age 21. After that, typically every three to five years—but consult your doctor. Some women may need more or less frequent screening, depending on age or past test results.
  • Mammogram: The point at which this type of breast cancer screening should begin is highly individual, so speak with your doctor about a schedule that makes sense for you. New government guidelines suggest certain low-risk women can wait until age 50, while other health groups feel earlier screening in all women makes sense.
  • Bone density check: Most women don't need to begin bone density screening until the age of 65—unless they have risk factors.

Promise yourself that you will make yourself top priority and do what's best for your body, no matter how hectic your life may be.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.