Why Should I Have Regular Cancer Screenings?
Most forms of cancer cause no symptoms in their early stages. Also in most cases, cancer is more easily treated in its earliest stages. This means that the only way to diagnose cancer in its early and more easily treated stages is to have regular screenings. Women are able to have the simple tests to check for cervical and breast cancer during their annual well-woman visits. This is also a great opportunity for a woman to discuss any changes in her health and wellbeing with her doctor, which could reveal symptoms that indicate cancer or other medical condition that needs to be treated.
What Are the Tests for Cervical Cancer?
A Pap smear is the best test to identify and diagnose cervical cancer or precancerous growths. Women should begin to have Pap smears when they become sexually active or at the age of 21, whichever comes first. However, if a woman is at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, she should have more frequent Pap smears to monitor her health. Women with a personal or family history of cervical cancer or abnormal cells, those with HIV, organ transplants, or exposure to certain drugs are often considered high risk. When you speak to your gynecologist, be frank and honest about your health history and follow your doctor’s advice on how often to have a Pap smear to protect and preserve your health.
What Are the Screenings for Breast Cancer?
Women are recommended to perform at-home breast exams following their periods each month to manually feel for any lumps or abnormalities. Also, during their annual well-woman checkups, their health care provider will perform a manual breast exam. Typically, from the ages of 45-55 women should have annual mammograms. After the age of 55, most women can reduce their mammograms to every other year. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, you should start having mammograms earlier and continue with annual, or even more frequent screenings, to protect your health.