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Medical Tests For Good Health

We should focus on our health every day, but the start of the year is a time when many people resolve to get in better shape and live a healthier lifestyle.

One of the best ways to get or stay healthy is to get tested for common diseases and conditions such as cancer and diabetes, The Saturday Early Show medical contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall explains. Yet notes some of the tests aren't covered by insurance plans, so you may want to use the money from your flex spending accounts to pay for them.

Here is a list:

Breast Exam / Mammography
According to the American Cancer Society, women in their 20s and 30s should have clinical breast exams about every three years, and every year, for women 40 and over. As far as mammograms go, women over age 40 should have them every year. However, if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you'll want to consult with your doctor about starting mammograms earlier.

Cervical Cancer
The American Cancer Society suggests that all women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having intercourse, but no later than when they are 21 years old.

Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every two years using the newer liquid-based Pap test. At age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every two to three years with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test.

Women with certain risk factors (like HIV infection, a weakened immune system due to organ transplant or those who are undergoing chemotherapy) should continue to be screened annually.

Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., so screening is very important for both men and women. We talked to the American College of Gastroenterology who says that all people over 50, with no family history of the disease, should get a colonoscopy every 10 years OR a sigmoidoscopy along with tests to look for blood in the stool every 5 years. People with a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors should begin screening with a colonoscopy by age 40.

Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and it is so preventable. One of the best ways to reduce your risk is to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater all year round. As far as screening goes, you should have your doctor examine your skin from head to toe every few years if you're under 40, and every year over 40. If you have a lot of freckles or moles, or are fair-skinned, you may need to be screened more often. And if you have any suspicious moles you're concerned about, have them checked out right away.

Prostate Cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends that all men over 50 have a digital rectal exam and a PSA blood test every single year. Men at higher risk for prostate cancer, such as African-American men and men with a family history should begin screening sooner. Prostate cancer screening has been somewhat controversial over the past few years, because there's been some debate over the accuracy and effectiveness of screening. So the most important thing is to have a frank discussion with your doctor about the pros and cons of early detection and come up with a plan that works for the both of you.

There are a number of things women can do to reduce their risk for osteoporosis including increasing their intake of calcium and Vitamin D and doing weight-bearing exercises. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests that all women over 65 get a baseline bone mineral density test - women with a family history should get one sooner.

All people over 20 should get a cholesterol panel at least every 5 years. People with a family history should get tested more often.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is more common in people who are overweight, people with a family history, and women with a history of gestational diabetes. But anyone can get it. It's suggested that people get a fasting blood sugar test by age 45 and every three years or so after that. Certainly, get one sooner, if you have any symptoms that might indicate diabetes.

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