4 Health Decisions That Really Matter

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4 Health Decisions That Really Matter

Sexually transmitted disease testing. All women under 25 should be tested annually for chlamydia—one of the most common STDs—which, in 75 percent of cases, has no symptoms, according to Mitchell Creinin, M.D., director of family planning at the University of Pittsburgh. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which may cause infertility. If you've had unprotected sex and/or don't know your partner's complete sexual history, talk to your gynecologist about also getting tested for gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C, which are not part of a routine screening.

Manual breast exams. Schedule this crucial annual exam after you've had your period (breasts will be less tender and lumpy) and make sure your doctor covers the entire area, says Marisa Weiss, M.D., president and founder of breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization in Narberth, Pa. Your physician should feel each breast for painful areas or a discernible lump. "Doctors should also feel the lymph node region below the collarbone and in both armpits," Weiss says. "Most cancers tend to occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast that reaches into the armpit, most likely because of the gland tissue located in that region."

In addition, your doctor should check for visible orange-peel-like dimpling of the skin, a nipple that has recently retreated inward, bloody discharge and uneven breasts (if one has suddenly grown much larger, it could signal an infection or possible cancer). If your doctor misses an area, don't be shy about asking her to go over the spot.

4 Health Decisions That Really Matter-2

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