There’s a lot of confusing information out there about how often you should be heading to your doctor for different health exams. It also doesn’t help that the information changes often—did you know that now many women in their 20s can get pap smears every three years, rather than annually? To help you navigate exactly what to check and when, we compiled a handy list. Keep scrolling!
Frequency: Every Three Years
Decidedly not fun, but absolutely necessary, Dr. Amy Esposito, the Medical Director at the Oscar Center, told us that the current guidelines for women in their 20s state you should start getting pap smears at 21-years-old “regardless of sexual activity.” She added that if there are abnormal results, however, you might fall under different guidelines so be sure to “ask your doctor how often to get checked.”
Frequency: Every two years.
The American Optometric Association suggests you head in for a comprehensive eye exam every two years.
Skin Cancer Screenings
Frequency: At least once a year.
Even if you’re not much of a sun-seeker, dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Dr. Sejal Shah
says you should be getting your skin checked for signs of cancer at least once annually. “It does vary based on the individual and some people need them more often,” she added, also recommending that you check yourself at home monthly. If you have a history of abnormal moles or skin cancer your dermatologist may recommend screenings more regularly.
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
Frequency: Every three years.
According to the American Cancer Society, women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) every three years
. The ACS also says that all women should be familiar with the “known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening,” and it’s not until you hit 40-years-old that mammograms (x-rays) of the breast can become part of your annual exam.
Self Breast Exam
Frequency: Every month.
Even in your 20s you should remain breast aware. The American Cancer Society recommends knowing how your breasts look normal, and report any changes to your health care professional immediately. Some medical groups claim that self breast exams are no longer needed
, however many women of all ages continue to check themselves regularly for changes. It’s simple to learn how and you can even learn the instructions
Frequency: Depends on your blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends that if your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, you should head to the doctor and get it checked at least once every two years from the age of 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often.
Frequency: Twice a year.
Visiting your dentist every six months works well for a lot of people while others may be able to get away with less—if you have very little risk of cavities or gum disease you may be able to go just once a year. Factors like smoking
, and cancer may mean you need to visit your dentist more regularly.
Frequency: Every five years.
Some studies say physical exams are useless, however the National Institute of Health still recommends getting two physicals in your 20s. You can expect the doctor to go over your health history, vital signs, blood work, and perform a number of screenings in this visit.
Frequency: After the age of 20, you should be checking your cholesterol every five years. It’s pretty easy to do so—you’re expected to fast for 12 hours and then head in for a blood test that looks at your total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides. You’re looking for LDL cholesterol levels to be 100 mg/dL or less, while your HDL (good) cholesterol levels should be 60 mg/dL or higher.
This article was created for a woman with normal health in her 20s, and it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor to work out the best plan for you.