In your 20s or 30s? Health signs to look out for

Featured Article, Nutrition — By on May 31, 2010 at 7:55 am

Too old for the annual pediatrician visit–and too young for the annual mammogram or prostate exam–people in their 20s and 30s can easily go years without seeing a doctor. And sometimes, doctors say, that’s OK.
Healthy lifestyle choices during young adulthood–including good nutrition, quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol–are key to reducing the risk of cancer later in life, said Holly Trandel, cancer risk reduction program coordinator for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.
Young adults also should keep an eye out for certain cancers, such as: Testicular cancer, which is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 35. See a doctor if there’s pain, lumps or other testicular changes, Trandel said.
Skin cancer. Be alert to new or changing skin growths, and see a doctor if you notice moles that have the A-B-C-D characteristics: Asymmetrical, Border irregularity, Color and Diameter. (It could be bad if it’s bigger than the size of a pencil eraser.)
Cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV but is preventable. Starting no later than age 21, women should get a pelvic exam and Pap smear annually.
Breast cancer. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years, Trandel said. Mammograms are recommended to start at 40, but if you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about earlier screenings. Generally, be aware of what your breasts look and feel like and report any changes to your doctor.

“As long as men are feeling good, their weight is stable, they have no undue pain, they’re functioning well at their job, in their relationships and at home, then for the most part, they don’t need to be seen,” said Dr. Ted Epperly, board chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Same goes for young women, though they should have regular gynecological appointments for Pap smears and breast exams.

That doesn’t mean young people are home-free. If you’re having symptoms of anything–worst headache ever, bleeding from somewhere, pain in your chest, pain that lasts for longer than normal or impairs your ability to function–you should be seen by a doctor, Epperly said.

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