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5 recommended medical tests for women

October 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
We're all busy and put off important medical tests. But doctors say there are five essential tests women should not miss and take annually. It's been a long time since 22-year-old Allyson Glynn has taken any kind of medical tests.

"I just haven't gotten around to it and I keep making excuses," said Glynn.

Simi Valley Hospital's family medicine expert Dr. John Dingilian, says many women are diligent about cancer screenings, but take cholesterol screening for granted. Many don't realize heart disease kills more women than cancer.

"This is something that goes under diagnosed in women," said Dr. Dingilian. "It is a very common and important thing to check on just like your pap smears, mammograms and other screening tests."

Besides a cholesterol test, the four other essential tests every woman should get are a pap smear, a mammogram, a colonoscopy and a physical exam for skin cancer.

Pap smears for cervical cancer screening used to be recommended every year, now experts say if you've had negative results for a few years and you're in a monogamous relationship you can spread that out to three years, unless you test positive for Human Papilloma Virus.

"If anyone has HPV it is still recommended every year to monitor for cervical cancer," said Dr. Dingilian.

A government task force recommends that women get mammograms bi-annually starting at age 50. But Dr. Dingilian says women should continue to follow the American Cancer Society's guidelines, which is annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Unless you have a family history of colon cancer, doctors recommend a colonoscopy starting at age 50 and then every three to five years after that.

The top reasons many women miss their tests are because they're uncomfortable, inconvenient, and many women think they're fine without them.

Those were all of Glynn's excuses. Now that she's a new mom, she knows her health is just as important as the rest of her family's.

"It's very important. You need to be checked every year and don't make excuses," said Glynn.

Dr. Dingilian says another test many women ask about is the CA-125 blood test for ovarian cancer. He says the levels fluctuate so much that it's not a very effective screening test. He suggests women get regular pelvic and physical exams.


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