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A Women's Health Checklist

Whether you are in your 20s or your 70s, if you are a woman, there are certain medical tests that you should have to help promote health and a feeling of well-being. The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall has a list of ten tests that should be part of your routine.

Marshall says she believes patients should know what to expect before they go to the doctor. That way, they can remind their doctors if they are overdue for a PAP smear, for example, just in case it gets overlooked.

Also, women spend so much of their time caring for others (their children, their spouses, their aging parents) that they often forget to take care of themselves. Marshall says this list is not necessarily comprehensive; there are other tests that many doctors would recommend as part of routine care. But there are the most common.

  • BODY MASS INDEX The Body Mass Index or BMI is a measurement based on a woman's height and weight, to give you some idea as to whether a woman (or man) is overweight or underweight. A BMI of 25 or greater indicates a woman is overweight.
  • BLOOD PRESSURE Your blood pressure should be checked every year beginning at age 20. High blood pressure is one of those things from which you probably won't have symptoms, and you probably won't know you have it unless you get your blood pressure checked frequently.
  • CHOLESTEROL Every five years beginning at age 20, and more frequently as you get older. Heart disease is the number one killer of women over 25 in the U.S., so you need to make sure you're not at risk.
  • EYE EXAM Most women who have normal vision assume they don't need to have their eyes checked. But this isn't true. You need to look for things such as cataracts, glaucoma and early signs of diabetes. So have your eyes checked every one to two years, at least, by age 40.
  • DENTAL EXAM This is another area that people forget, but gum disease and tooth decay can not only affect your smile, but can cause other medical problems. So get your teeth cleaned every 6-12 months.
  • SKIN EXAM In order to pick up skin cancer as quickly as possible, your doctor should take a good look at your skin every year, and perhaps more often if you have a history of skin cancer, family history of it, or a lot of moles.
  • PAP SMEAR To check for early signs of cervical cancer, all women need this test every one to three years, depending on their risk factors.
  • BREAST EXAM AND MAMMOGRAM You need a breast exam by your doctor during every routine check-up, and a mammogram every year beginning at either age 40 or 50, depending on your doctor and your risk factors.
  • COLONOSCOPY Every five to 10 years beginning at age 50, unless you have risk factors.
  • BONE MINERAL DENSITY Many doctors are recommending that, as women enter menopause, they get a bone mineral density test to look for evidence of osteoporosis, especially if there's a family history of the disease.
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