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I just turned 30 and am going for my annual health checkup. What preventive health screenings should I expect?
Congratulations on turning 30—and on thinking about your health! Now that you're 30, you get to add a new health screening to your repertoire: an HPV test. This test may be done during your gynecologic exam along with a Pap smear. It is not recommended until you're 30 unless you have had an inconclusive Pap test at a younger age.
Your practitioner will take a swab of cells from your cervix, which can be tested both for the human papillomavirus (the HPV test) and for cell changes (the Pap test). The HPV test detects strains of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer. Meanwhile, the Pap detects precancerous changes in cervical cells.
If your health care provider doesn't mention the HPV test, you may want to ask about it. Here are some questions to discuss:
- Should I have the HPV test? Why or why not?
- If I have HPV, what should I do next?
- If I don't have HPV, when should I come back for my next exam?
- How will you inform me of my results?
In addition to these gynecological exams, ask your health care provider how often you should have a full physical exam. It is also important to talk to your health care provider about any issues that may be affecting your health.
Here are some other preventive screenings you may need at your checkup:
- blood pressure check (at least every two years)
- cholesterol screening (every five years for women 20 and older; more frequently if other risk factors or previous tests indicated problems)
Recommendations for breast cancer screenings currently vary. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a clinical breast exam at least once every three years for women 20 to 39 and annually for women 40 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes no recommendation on clinical breast exams.
The ACS also recommends an annual screening mammogram for women 40 to 75 years old. The new USPSTF guidelines recommend a mammogram every two years for women ages 50 to 74. If you have risk factors for breast cancer, you may need additional screening. Talk to your health care provider about what is best for you.
Also continue to have a dental checkup and cleaning twice a year and a vision test at least once a year.
Beyond preventive screenings, the best way to ensure lifelong good health is with healthy living. That means following a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats; maintaining a healthy weight; getting regular exercise; not smoking; and drinking alcohol only in moderation. One more thing: Don't forget to wear your seatbelt!
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