Health checks for young women

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As young women come into adulthood, there's a range of regular health checks that can reduce the risk of common illnesses.

Pap tests and STI checks

Once young women become sexually active, they will need regular reproductive and sexual health checks including pap smears, or pap tests. Pap smears test for changes to cells of the cervix, identifying if there have been cell variations, which can lead to cervical cancer if left untreatedi. The pap test is a simple procedure that a doctor or nurse can provide in a short amount of time, and the Medicare rebate for pap tests means that it should be either free of charge, or low-cost depending on your health care provider's billing feesii. For all women aged between eighteen and seventy who have ever been sexually active, it is recommended to have a pap test every two years, starting from two years after they first have sexual intercourse . Also, from the age of fifteen to twenty-nine, it's recommended that sexually active young women are tested for chlamydia once a year with a simple urine test, due to its prevalence in this age groupiii.

Breast checks

Although the three quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over fifty, breast cancer can occur at any age. Therefore, it's important for women of all ages to regularly check their own breasts for any changes that could be a sign of breast canceriv. Self-checks are essential in detecting cancer before it spreads into other breast tissue, or to other parts of the body. Young women should ask their general practitioner to show them how to check their breasts and lymph nodes in the underarms for signs of lumps, thickening of the tissue or anything that is irregular for themiv.

Cardiovascular health checks

You're never too young to start looking after the health of your heart! For young women with normal blood pressure, it's recommended to have a blood pressure check-up every two years, or more frequently if you have a family history of high blood pressureiii. Having your cholesterol levels checked occasionally is also a good way to monitor your risk of developing health problems like heart disease. In the same manner, having your doctor calculate your body mass index (BMI) and measure your waist circumference every two years can also help you to act early to avoid health issues caused by being overweight or obeseiii.

HPV vaccine

The extremely common human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus which has been identified to cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers in womeni. Recommended for teenagers between 12 and 13 years by the National Immunisation Program, the HPV vaccine has become part of a national immunisation program, rolled out in high schools across Australia since 2007v. Young women who missed out on the free of charge HPV vaccination in high school can still consider purchasing the three doses of the vaccine from their doctor or immunisation provider for $450vi.

The HPV vaccine can significantly decrease the chances of developing HPV-related illnesses such as cervical cancer.

Skin checks

To increase the chances of detecting skin cancers early, young women should check their own skin every few months for any signs of changes to moles or freckles. If you have a higher risk of skin cancer due to family history, skin type or increased sun exposure, it's a good idea to get your skin checked by a health specialist or dermatologistiii.

By being proactive about health checks, young women can improve their general health as well as access preventative treatment early for any burgeoning health issues. Most of these health checks are simple, painless and easily accessible, so it's possible for every young woman to look after her health.

iBetter Health Channel 2013, Pap Tests, Victorian Government, viewed 17 April 2014,

iiCancer Institute NSW 2013, 'Do I need to pay for my pap test?', Cervical Screening NSW, viewed 17 April 2014,

iiiBetter Health Channel 2012, Health checks for women, Victorian Government, viewed 17 April 2014,

ivBetter Health 2012, Breast cancer, Victorian Government, viewed 17 April 2014,

vHPV Vaccine 2014, 'How, when and where is the vaccine given?', viewed 17 April 2014,

viHPV Vaccine 2014, 'How much does it cost?, viewed 17 April 2014,