15 Tests Every Woman Needs

The smartest way to take control of your health is to get these lifesaving tests on schedule.

Heart Health


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: At least every two years.

Details: Get checked by your doc. Over-the-counter wrist and finger monitors aren't the most accurate for diagnosing high blood pressure.


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Blood test every five years if normal, more frequently if not.

Details: Get total cholesterol number and HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

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Eyes, Teeth


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Every two to three years if normal; every one to two years after age 40.

Details: Not just for eyeglasses; checks if you're at risk for cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. Can also reveal increased pressure in the brain, caused by bleeding, tumors and more.


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: One to two times a year.

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Details: Exam is about more than cavities. Dentists check for oral cancer and gum disease (which can be a harbinger of heart disease and pregnancy problems).



What Age: Start at age 25.

How Often: Every one to three years until age 40, then every year.

Details: Breast check by your health practitioner.


What Age: 40s, 50+

How Often: Every year.

Details: If you're under 50 and/or have dense breasts, ask for a digital mammogram, which detects more tumors than traditional film mammograms. Many insurance companies cover a baseline mammogram in your 30s, though it's not clear whether that helps with cancer detection later on.


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Self check monthly; doc check every three years until age 40, then every year.

Details: Keep track of your self-checks with a mole map like the one on mdanderson.org


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Every three years until age 39, then every year.

Details: Visual/Manual check for signs of cancers of thyroid, lymph glands, mouth, and skin as part of regular physical exam. Colon-cancer screenings start at age 50 (45 for African-Americans.)

Sexual Health


What Age: Anyone who is sexually active.

How Often: Every year for women under age 25; repeat annually if you have new sexual partners.

Details: A swab test detects this common STD that can cause fertility problems and pelvic pain.


What Age: If you have unprotected sex at any age.

How Often: Before having sex with someone new, four to six weeks after unprotected sex, and again six months later.

Details: New rapid tests swab your cheek (no needles), and results are ready in 20 minutes. They're 97 to 99 percent accurate though you need to get a blood test to verify a positive result.


What Age: 30s, 40s, 50+ (20s if you have an abnormal Pap)

How Often: Every year. If HPV and Pap are normal, repeat both every three years.

Details: With a sample collected on a swab, this test looks for 13 strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) associated with cervical cancer. Get this test even if you've had the HPV vaccine.


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Repeat every year; after three consecutive negative Paps in your 30s, you can test every two to three years.

Details: Ask for a liquid based cytology test (ThinPrep or SurePath) – the better sample can eliminate the need for immediate retesting (the test feels the same; the change is on the slide). You need a Pap even if you've had the HPV vaccine.


What Age: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+

How Often: Every year.

Details: Checks for infections, some STDs, growths, cysts, and to see if you need additional test for ovarian cancer.



What Age: Start at age 45; 25 if your insurance covers it.

How Often: Every three years if normal, more frequently if levels are above normal.

Details: Ask for a fasting blood-sugar test (it's a blood test). Get clarity on your results; even if you don't have diabetes, you may have pre-diabetes, which may be reversed with lifestyle changes.



What Age: Before pregnancy.

How Often: Do what your insurance will cover.

Details: Blood test checks for low or high thyroid levels. Test if you have symptoms like low energy, weight gain, or hair loss. Since many women don't have symptoms, some docs say every woman should be tested, at least before pregnancy. Get it if your insurance will pay.


Start testing sooner if you're at above-average risk for these medical conditions:


Get a bone scan every two years starting now if you've taken a glucocorticoid drug (like Prednisone) for two months or more. (Otherwise, get one at 50+.)


If you have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has had breast cancer, get a clinical breast exam every three to six months and an annual mammogram starting 10 years earlier than your relative's age at cancer diagnosis. Ask your doctor about adding an MRI.


Colonoscopy every five years starting at age 40, or younger if a first-degree relative had colon cancer or a polyp before age 60.


Annual blood-sugar test starting at age 30 if you're overweight and have/had any of these: polycystic ovarian syndrome, family history, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, or are of African, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American descent.


Transvaginal ultrasound plus a CA-125 blood test starting between 30 and 35 if you have genetic risk (mutated BRCA1 or other ovarian-cancer gene). Start between 35 and 40 if you have a mutated BRCA2 gene.


Consult a dermatologist about a screening schedule if you have a family history of melanoma in two or more blood relatives, multiple unusual moles, or actinic keratoses—gray to pink scaly skin patches.

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