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Medical Checkups You Need To Get In Your 20s

Have you gotten a pap smear yet?
PHOTO: Tamara Schlesinger

Many ladies in their 20s feel invincible. You look good, feel good, and you’ve found balance between work and play. Maybe you’re able to work out a couple of days a week or you've subscribed to a healthy diet delivery that does not entirely taste like plants. Going to the doctor for anything might be the furthest thing from your mind.

While your twenties is generally regarded as a great time for health, it’s also now that little medical questions and concerns may begin to pop up. Lifestyle issues like smoking, drinking, diet, sleep, and stress begin to affect how you feel and move every day.

Many Pinays in their 20s are clueless about who to see, where to go, and what to do when it comes to keeping tabs on their health. So, we asked doctors to give us the nine check-ups you should get in your 20s:

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1. Get an Annual Check-Up with a Primary Care Physician

First, it is extremely important to find a primary healthcare provider you can trust. If you are enrolled in health insurance, you may look through the roster of doctors to select someone in your coverage. If you are a student or work for an office with a clinic, you may also go to the attending physician there.

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Make sure to get your immunization records from your previous doctor. Be sure you have had MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and Varicella (chickenpox) vaccinations, and that your TDap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is up to date (it needs to be taken every 10 years).

You may also want to look into getting a Flu vaccine annually as well. It is also recommended that young women receive the cervical cancer vaccine as a means of prevention. Be sure to discuss all these things with your primary care physician.

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2. Create a Family and Personal Medical History

Now might be a good time to sit down with your parents and get your family medical history. This may show you what to look out for—your potential health or genetic risks for developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, vision loss, or mental illness. Be thorough when you map this out and ask the following if possible: What age did these conditions manifest in your family members? What medical treatments did they receive? Were they the causes of death of deceased family members?

Also try to map out your own personal medical history! Ask your parents about any illnesses you may have had in your childhood (whether or not you were sipunin, you bruised very easily, or your skin broke out in rashes all the time might be minor childhood details that can say a lot about your health years later), and prior hospitalizations and surgeries.

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3. Eye Exam

Even if you have perfect, crystal clear vision, and have never worn glasses, it is a good idea to get your eyes checked every one to two years. Your ophthalmologist or eye doctor checks for other things aside from how good your vision is. If you have conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of vision problems, the doctor may need to monitor your eyes more frequently.

4. ABCDE: Skin Check

Skin cancer can develop at any age. In a tropical country like ours, we have a particularly high risk because of sun exposure, so never leave home without slathering on some sunblock! Taking care of yourself means monitoring your skin for any changes, markings, and moles. Doing a self-skin check with the ABCDE method may be useful. These are what you should look out for:

A- Asymmetry. Take note of the roundness of a mole or mark.

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B- Border. Does it have irregular borders?

C- Color. Is it uneven in color, getting darker or lighter, or looking significantly different from your other moles?

D- Diameter. Is it larger than a pencil eraser?

E- Evolving. Is it changing in size, shape, and color?

If you answered yes to any of these or might have any skin concerns, consult a dermatologist.

5. Screening for Anemia

Since most Asian women have Iron Deficiency Anemia, it’s important to screen for this as well. If you’ve been exhibiting symptoms of fatigue, weakness, headaches, rapid heartbeat, or brittle hair or nails, you may be anemic. This can be checked by assessing your Hemoglobin (the protein that transports oxygen in your blood), which may be checked alone or as part of a standard CBC or blood test.

6. Blood Pressure

It is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked regularly. Any health care worker can do this. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If you find that the systolic (top number) is greater than 140 or the diastolic (bottom number) is more than 90, it’s imperative you see a doctor.

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7. Lipid Profile Tests and Diabetes Screening

If you have a family history of hypertension, or you smoke, or you're overweight, you should have your cholesterol levels in the blood checked annually. To get your cholesterol checked, you will need to fast for 12 hours before a blood test that will measure your total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, HDL or “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides (fat In blood). The same goes for a family history of diabetes—your doctor may recommend a blood test that will measure your glucose levels.

Early prevention is key when it comes to cholesterol. Plaque build up over time may lead to heart disease. Diabetes also has numerous long-term effects that can severely damage organs. If caught early enough, simple lifestyle changes may avoid consequences of these diseases.

8. Breast Exam

Your twenties is also a good time to get to know your breasts better. While mammograms are not recommended for women under 40 because of the radiation, there is still value in asking your doctor to check them for lumps and changes, or teach you how to do a proper breast exam yourself. This is really important if you have family history of breast cancer. The Philippines remains one of the top 10 countries in the world with the most cases of breast cancer, and it is said that one in 13 women here will develop it in her lifetime. (Philippine Society of Medical Oncology)

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9. Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear

Your 20s are your prime reproductive years. A consultation with an OB-Gynecologist could lead to a diagnosis and treatment that will ultimately prevent infertility or cancer. A routine examination may involve a pelvic exam, where your doctor will examine your cervix and vagina. Your cervix is a narrow passageway between the uterus and the vagina.

Depending on your sexual history, your doctor may request for a pap smear as a means of cervical cancer prevention. Pap smears find abnormal cells on the cervix that may progress into cancer. An HPV test or other specific tests for sexually transmitted infections may also be requested. In addition to this, as Dr. Wen Del Rosario-Raymundo says, it’s important to remember that it is a misconception that one cannot develop STIs without penetrative sexual activity, and it is also wrong to think that condoms are fully protective against STIs like HPV. If you’re sexually active, best to see an OB/GYN. He or she is the best person to talk to about any menstrual irregularities, fertility issues, or concerns about sexual contact.

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When it comes to taking care of your health in your 20s, remember the three Ss. Schedule regular visits, share all your symptoms with your primary doctor, and stay vigilant of any changes you notice over time. Listening closely to your body and seeking help when you feel anything off or different can help you stay healthy to become your best self.


Healthy Women. Health in Your 20s, The Philippine Society of Medical Oncology

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