Keeping up with our health (i.e. making appointments and actually sticking to them, eating the right foods, exercising, etc.) is always something we say we're going to do, but the reality is we don't—at least, not to the fullest extent. Those health kicks that get us going, let's be honest, have never really lasted past week three—due in part to laziness, but also due in part to the fact that The List of All The Things You're Supposed to Do to Stay Healthy just seems to get longer and longer and longer.
But there are some things you should NOT skip out on, no matter what your schedule is like. Here, a list of must-take tests. (You have our permission to save the rest for a later day.)
Extra-genital STI Screening
While regular screenings for STIs are always highly recommended, new research released by John Hopkins Medicine found that cases of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia in areas like the throat are often missed in women who receive genital-only screening (opens in new tab). Extra-genital Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are often asymptomatic and, if left untreated, can cause serious health problems later on.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and poor blood cholesterol is a risk factor that you can control. If you are at an increased risk (i.e. your family has a history of it), start getting this test at age 20. In addition to regular cholesterol testing, lower your risk of heart disease by eating a healthy diet, refraining from smoking cigarettes, getting regular exercise, and staying ahead of potential health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
We know you are tired of hearing this one and staring at those odd posters demonstrating the self-test (boobs!), but this is serious. Catching possible nodes and tumors early increases the chances of successful treatment and recovery. While the value of mammography has been debated, data released in CANCER (opens in new tab), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, revealed the importance of regular screening in women under 50. The study indicated that breast cancer is more aggressive and more prevalent among women under 50 years of age, but regular screening significantly decreases the chance of breast cancer deaths (obviously). So you know, just do it.
Yes, it's not like going for ice cream, but a pap smear isn't *that* bad, especially when it could, you know, save your life. While your health class teacher might have told you that this screening was necessary as soon as you became sexually active, recent studies have confirmed that women should begin having pap tests every three to five years starting at age 21. This test helps detect cases of HPV, which can have a litany of consequences including death, if not caught and treated early on. Just relax, breathe, and focus on something on the ceiling and it will be over before you know it.
You can do this test on your own or visit a doctor for a professional opinion depending on your risk factors and family history of skin cancer. Knowing your skin and keeping track of moles and abnormalities will allow you to identify skin cancer early if it develops.
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Simedar Jackson is an esthetician, content creator, and lover of sci-fi fiction living in Brooklyn, New York. She is passionate about creating space for Black and Brown people in the beauty and wellness industries by providing access to culturally nuanced education and services that meet their needs. You can find them doing their skincare routine, reminding friends to reapply SPF, and watching reruns of Love Island.
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