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The health screenings to get in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s

The health screenings to get in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s

The adage goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and any of our doctors will tell you it’s absolutely correct. While we can’t prevent every disease, countless studies indicate that preventative healthcare tends to correlate with better outcomes. Take an active role in your health by getting your recommended tests to prevent cancer and chronic diseases. Curious about which health screens you need? Use this guide to brush up on recommended visits for your age group.

college age people with overlay of recommended health screenings for 20s and 30s

Get baseline health data (fully covered by insurance!)

A wellness exam is a yearly visit with a family medicine practitioner. This visit assesses your BMI, heart rate, blood pressure, and other key health indicators. Your provider will also draw your blood to examine cell health, chemicals, proteins, and other substances in the blood.

Beyond just running tests, we encourage finding a trusted primary care provider (PCP) to act as a starting place for any health concern. PCPs are there to help you with problems sleeping, dietary concerns, chronic pain, mental or sexual health concerns, and other issues.

Start those skin checks: You can get skin cancer early in life

Skin checks are a head-to-toe evaluation by a dermatology professional. While everyone could benefit from a preventative skin check, they are especially valuable for people with new or changing moles, changes in skin texture, or people who spend a lot of time in the sun. Melanoma is a very common cancer which can affect people early in life. Sarah McNeely was in her 20s when melanoma was detected in one of her moles.

Be responsible with your sexual health

People carrying sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) don’t often display symptoms, which is how they spread quickly. Chlamydia is one example that doesn’t always present symptoms but can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, testicular swelling in men, and infertility in both men and women if left untreated. Chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics and best to treat as early as possible.

If you are sexually active in your 20’s and 30’s, be transparent with your doctor about any symptoms or concerns. You can also request an STD test during your annual physical.

Women: Start pap smears & breast awareness

No one loves the paper gown and stirrups, but it’s the most effective way to detect cervical cancer. Start pap smears and pelvic exams with your primary care provider or an OB/GYN by age 21 and continue them as directed by your doctor.

Did you know checking for lumps in the shower is no longer recommended? It’s not exactly outdated advice, it just doesn’t cover everything. Instead, OB/GYNs now recommend “Self Breast Awareness” or being noticing all changes in your breasts. Are they itchy, swollen, causing pain, or discharging? Share this information with your doctor. You can learn more about Self Breast Awareness here.

Explore your family history of cancer and diseases

Some cancers (like breast cancer) and diseases (like diabetes) run in families. The more we know, the better we can detect. Learn about your family history; this information may give you a better understanding about your future health risks, genetic risks for developing certain conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, and vision loss, for example.

And finally, do you have all your immunizations?

Guidelines recommend that both men and women get a flu shot and the latest COVID-19 vaccine every year. If you received the tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) immunization before age 19, you should get a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years. Should you need additional immunizations, such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, your doctor will advise based on your job, lifestyle, vacation plans, health status and age.

At a glance, the health screenings to prioritize in your 20s and 30s are:

  • Annuals & bloodwork
  • Family history review
  • Immunization review
  • Pap smears + breast awareness
  • Skin checks
  • STD tests

a middle age woman with overlay text of screenings to get in your 40s

Brace for impact: Let’s talk about colonoscopies

Colon cancer remains the second deadliest cancer in the USA and it’s indetectable to the naked eye. The best way to detect colon cancer is with screening colonoscopies beginning at age 45. They’re not fun, maybe a little embarrassing, and inconvenient, but worth it: colonoscopies reduce your risk of colon cancer by 80%.

Note: Those with a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, polyps, or ulcerative colitis may need to begin colonoscopies before age 45.

Men: Time for prostate screenings

Usually beginning in your 40s, prostate tests include a digital rectal exam (in which your doctor manually checks for lumps or abnormalities), as well as a simple blood test for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA). These tests reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Women: Time for mammograms

The best way to prevent breast cancer is through early detection in the form of self-breast awareness and mammograms after age 45. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend mammograms earlier than 45. When breast cancer is found early and confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 99%. 

Biometric screenings: Don’t skip physicals in your 40s

Often included in annual physical exams, measurements of your weight, waist circumference, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar help you and your doctor know what risks you have for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

  • Cholesterol: After age 40, men and women should have a blood test once a year to check cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about beginning testing sooner.
  • Diabetes: You should be screened for diabetes every three years after age 45 through a blood test. If you are overweight, ask your doctor about beginning screening at a younger age.

These health screenings take priority in your 40s:

  • Cholesterol & diabetes
  • Colonoscopies
  • Mammograms
  • Prostate screenings

A group of senior men with overlay text of health screens to get over age 50

Be proactive about bone health

After age 50, you should discuss osteoporosis and bone density health with your doctor. If you have any risk factors, he/she may suggest you have a screening. These factors can include a family history, low body weight and bone fractures after age 40.

The Zoster vaccine for shingles

CDC recommends two doses of recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) to prevent shingles and related complications in adults 50 years and older.

These health screenings become important after age 50:

  • Bone density (osteoporosis) care
  • Zoster vaccine if needed
  • Colonoscopies, mammograms, and prostate tests continue


If you have not had a wellness exam in a few years or are overdue for a recommended health screening, we can help. Use our online scheduling form to request an appointment and view accepted insurance carriers here.