Your 20s: A Health Guide for Women
Your 20s: check-up checklist
You're never too young to start monitoring your health. Use this check-up checklist to stay on top of the tests and examinations you need all through your 20s.
- Pap test and pelvic exam: By the time you've hit 20, you should be having routine annual pelvic exams and Pap tests. Pap tests screen for cervical cancer, while the pelvic exam allows your health care provider to examine your cervix and vagina and to get a sense of the health of your uterus. Your health care provider might also look for signs of infections.
- Breast exam: Breast cancer is a very common cancer among women. At the age of 25, your chances of getting breast cancer are less than 1 in 1,000. Your health care provider may do an exam when you go in for your annual Pap test and pelvic exam. If not, ask your doctor whether you should have a breast exam, and if so, how often. You should also become familiar with the look and feel of your breasts so you know what's normal for you.
- Skin check: You may figure that you're years away from peak risk age, but anyone at any age can develop skin cancer. In addition to minimizing your risk with healthy sun habits, your health care provider should do a thorough skin check to screen for new or changed moles or marks. You can also do a skin check yourself (or with a helpful partner). Remember the letters ABCDE when looking at skin growths:
If anything seems out of the ordinary or alarming, contact your doctor.
- Asymmetry (not round)
- Border (irregular)
- Colour (uneven, changing, different from other moles)
- Diameter (larger than a pencil eraser)
- Evolving (changing in size, shape, or colour)
- Dental check-ups: Visit your dentist for preventive check-ups and routine cleanings. The frequency of visits will really depend on individual needs, though most authorities on the subject recommend at least once or twice a year.
- Eye exams: Even if your vision is 20/20 in your 20s, you should have your eyes examined every one to two years. After all, optometrists check for other things besides how good your vision is - like signs of glaucoma. If you have a condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of vision problems, your optometrist will let you know if you need more frequent eye exams and check-ups.
- Blood pressure and cholesterol: You're not at too much risk of elevated levels now, especially if you're following healthy heart habits like exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, and not smoking. Any time you go in for any health care visit, your blood pressure will be gauged, and you should get a cholesterol work-up every few years. If you fall into certain risk groups, your doctor may screen your levels more frequently. You may be at risk if you have diabetes or a large waist circumference, or if you smoke.
- Immunizations: You think shots are just for kids? Certain vaccinations you received as a child may need to be updated, while other immunizations are available that can protect you from needless health issues. Ask your doctor if you're due for any of these:
- Get shots to protect you from measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) if you've never had the vaccination before. Should you find yourself in certain risky situations, you'd also need the MMR vaccination. Those risky situations include working in health care, attending college, and travelling to certain countries.
- The tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is recommended for anyone whose last Tdap shots were more than 10 years ago. Others who should get the Tdap include those who work in close contact with infants, those who plan on becoming pregnant, and those who have received a "dirty" wound (e.g., from a rusted nail).
- Each year, get the influenza vaccine. The flu shot is especially important if you have medical conditions that put you at risk of complications from the flu.
- Considering world travel? Consider being vaccinated against meningitis and hepatitis A and B, and consult with a travel clinician or your doctor in regards to other risks of particular destinations.
- If you never had chickenpox as a youngster, you should get vaccinated against it now. And if you're unsure whether you did, go ahead and get the vaccination, just in case. It's a good idea to get it, too, if you're hoping to get pregnant sometime in the future. Hold off, though, if you're already pregnant (or hope to be within several weeks of vaccination).
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common but totally preventable sexually transmitted disease. Condoms can't fully protect you from the virus, and though it is a silent, symptom-less virus, it can put you at increased risk of cervical cancer. The three-dose vaccination provides a means of protection.
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