19 Medical Tests Everyone Needs
When to get it: At least once a year. "If you have risk factors such as being fair, having a lot of moles or having a family history of skin cancer, then you may need to be seen as often as every three to six months," says David Leffell, MD, chief of dermatologic surgery at Yale School of Medicine. You could go to your primary care doc, but dermatologists are better at diagnosing potentially cancerous lesions, studies show.
Cost: $50 to $150 to see a derm. Insurance covers the visit after you meet your deductible as well as fork over your usual co-pay or co-insurance.
When to get it: Every three years, provided your last one was normal. Cervical cancer is so slow to develop that three years is plenty of time to catch it. "If you get a test more often, it can pick up small suspicious changes that won't turn into cancer but result in your getting more frequent screenings or biopsies," says David Chelmow, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University. In your 20s, get a Pap alone; starting at 30, you can continue having a Pap every three years, or stretch it to every five years if paired with an HPV test. Most women can stop cervical cancer screenings at age 65.
Cost: $75 to $350, not including the office visit. Insurance pays the full bill every three years for women age 21 to 65.
HPV (human papillomavirus) test
When to get it: Women age 30 to 65 should get an HPV test paired with a Pap test every five years. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved one type of HPV test for use as a stand-alone screening, some experts say it's not ready for prime time: "Among women whose tests have revealed precancerous cells, a small grouparound 6%have abnormal Pap smears but normal HPV tests," Dr. Chelmow cautions.
Cost: $30 to $125, not including the office visit. Insurance pays in full every five years for women age 30 to 65.
When to get it: Annually starting at age 21.
Cost: $70 to $240 to see an ob-gyn, but insurance pays in full for an annual well-woman visit.
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When to get it: The CDC and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women under 25, as well as older women with risk factors such as a new partner or more than one partner. "I also recommend all people in their 20s have an HIV and syphilis test at some point, even if they're low-risk," says internist David Fleming, MD, president of the ACP.
Cost: $20 to $110 per test. It may be covered in full, depending on your risk factors.
The USPSTF recommends mammograms every two years for women at average risk of breast cancer from age 50 to 74. The ACOG recommends getting your first mammogram no later than 50, and the ACS recommends annual screening starting at 45—and earlier if you have risk factors like a family history. "Beginning this early saves thousands of lives," says Elisa Port, MD, chief of breast surgery and director of the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
When to get it: More and more, guidelines suggest making a shared decision with your doctor about when to start breast cancer screening. If you're at high risk for breast cancer (for example, you have a BRCA gene mutation), you should be screened annually with both a mammogram and an MRI.
Cost: $150 to $375. Insurance pays in full for a screening mammo every one to two years for women 40-plus. However, if you've previously had cancer or have a strong family history, it may be considered a diagnostic exam and you'll have to pay your deductible and co-pay or co-insurance. Note: Most insurers don't cover 3-D mammograms, so if you get one you may have to pay $40 to $60 on top of the cost of a regular mammo.
Clinical breast exam
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When to get it: Every one to three years in your 20s and 30s and every year starting at age 40, according to ACOG.
Cost: $70 to $240 to see your ob-gyn, but insurance pays in full for your annual checkup.
When to get it: Once every four to six years. If your results aren't normal and/or you have risk factors such as a family history of heart disease, you may need more frequent screening. Some experts also say that women 50 and older (after menopause, when estrogen levels drop) should get checked more ofteneven annually, Dr. Goldberg says, depending on previous results and other risk factors like being overweight, smoking or having high blood pressure.
Cost: $110 to $305, not including the office visit. Insurance pays in full for an annual physical, and cholesterol testing is often included in that coverage; if not, you pay your deductible and co-pay or co-insurance.
Blood pressure check
When to get it: Every two years as part of a routine physical; once a year or more if your pressure is above 120/80.
Cost: $70 to $200 for a doctor's visit, but insurance pays the full tab for preventive checkups.
When to get it: In your 20s and 30s, Dr. Taylor suggests getting a full exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist every 5 to 10 years (yearly if you wear contacts). Starting at age 40, bump it up to every two years. You may need more frequent exams if you have a family history of eye disease, have had previous eye injuries or eye surgery, have diabetes or high blood pressure or are over 65.
Cost: $75 to $200 with an ophthalmologist; $50 to $150 with an optometrist. Insurance coverage varies.
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When to get it: The standard recommendation is every three years starting at 45. But the American Diabetes Association advises beginning earlier if you're overweight and have one or more of these risk factors: You have a family member with diabetes, delivered a baby over 9 pounds, had gestational diabetes, have high blood pressure or belong to an ethnic group with higher rates of diabetes, such as African Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans.
Cost: $40 to $260, not including the office visit. Insurance pays the full cost if you have elevated blood pressure. Otherwise you may owe your deductible and co-pay or co-insurance.
When to get it: Your first should happen at age 50, earlier if you've got other risk factors, such as a family history, or if you have suspicious symptoms like blood in your stool. If the test is negative, continue getting one every 10 years.
Cost: $1,100 to $2,800. Insurance pays for the procedure every 10 years for adults age 50 to 75.
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When to get it: Once at menopause if you have risk factors; if your results are normal, you don't need another scan until age 65.
Cost: $60 to $385. Insurance pays the full tab for women 65-plus and often for younger postmenopausal women (may require pre-approval).
Vitamin D test
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Cost: $25 to $150; sometimes covered by insurance.
Complete blood count
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Cost: $10 to $85; insurance often pays in full.
TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test
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Cost: $15 to $115; insurance often covers it, though you may owe a deductible and co-pay or co-insurance.
Cholesterol particle tests
Cost: $15 to $265; not usually covered for routine screening but may be covered in part if you have risk factors.
Coronary calcium scan
Cost: $10 to $300; not usually covered for routine screening but may be covered in part if you have risk factors.
CRP (C-reactive protein) test
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Cost: $10 to $115; not usually covered for healthy patients but often covered in part if you have risk factors.