Why you need it: It is the tried-and-true way to detect cervical cancer in time to treat it effectively.
When and how often: Beginning at least by age 21, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had several normal Paps in a row and a negative human-papillomavirus (HPV) test, get tested every other year. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a smoker, have multiple sexual partners, began having intercourse at a young age, are HIV-positive, or have a sexually transmitted disease, have a pap annually. If you are 30 or older, ask your doctor to test for HPV.
What to expect: A Pap smear-a swab of cells from your cervix-is sent to a lab to be tested for any abnormalities. Ask your doctor if sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s using the ThinPrep Pap Test, which obtains your sample using a brush and stores the cells in a liquid formula. The FDA considers this a more effective test than the traditional Pap.
What the results mean: If your Pap test shows you have abnormal cervical cells, your doctor may do an HPV test. If you test positive for HPV, then you will probably need a colposcopy, a procedure in which your doctor uses a special microscope to look for abnormalities in the vagina or on the cervix. If a colposcopy raises red flags, you may also need a cervical biopsy.
Clinical breast exam and mammogram
Why you need it: Both types of screening can detect breast cancer when it is confined to the breast. Ninety-seven percent of women diagnosed at this stage survive without a recurrence for at least five years, according to the American Cancer Society.
When and how often: Starting when you are aged 20, your doctor should manually examine your breasts at your regular check-up. By age 40, you should have a mammogram once a year.
What the results mean: If the mammogram picks up an abnormality, such as a small deposit of calcium or a mass, your doctor may ask you to undergo a breast ultrasound or in some cases a breast MRI. These tests can determine whether a lump is a solid mass and if a biopsy is necessary.
Why you need it: To ensure that you are not at risk for heart disease.Ã‚Â Sixty four percent of women who die from sudden cardiac death have no previous symptoms of this disease.
When and how often: Annual exams starting at age 20. These are especially important if you have a family history of hypertension or premature heart disease, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re 45 or older, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re overweight, or if you are a smoker.
What to expect: Your doctor will check your blood pressure and listen to your heart for murmurs or irregular heartbeats. If you have been experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, and easy fatigue, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist, who will order a stress test and an electrocardiogram to help evaluate your heart and future heart-disease risk.
What the results mean: If your doctor determines that you have an irregular heartbeat or if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re experiencing palpitations, this may indicate a cardiac rhythm disorder that requires medication. If your blood pressure is higher than 130/90, you may be developing hypertension. Ã¢â‚¬â€www.realsimple.com