Apr 14, 2010

Cancer Screening Tests for Women

It's Cancer Control Month, and one way to control cancer is to avoid it, prevent it, in any way possible. This can be achieved through nutrition as well as practical screening tests, whether you are a man or woman. In this post, the focus is on tests for women...this is the time of year when I have my physical and get the tests done that are recommended. 
Cancer screening tests women should have include the following:
  • Mammogram - Have them done as often as your doctor suggests to prevent Breast Cancer, or catch it in it's early stages.  I have one every other year.  I am scheduled for one in about 2 weeks.  In my case, I'm thankful that my insurance covers this, without dipping into my deductible.  You should also learn to examine your own breasts between Mammograms, do so monthly.  Here is "How to Perform a Breast Exam" from the American Cancer Society. (Men should perform this exam on themselves as well).
  • Pap Smear - This should be done to watch for any abnormalities that may indicate Cervical Cancer.  Don't panic if you test is abnormal, I've had times when it was simply an irritation or a polyp that needed to be removed, but do follow up with whatever is suggested by your doctor.  
  • Pelvic exam - this is usually done at the same time as you have your Pap Smear, a visual exam of the vaginal area and cervix for any abnormalities.  This should start when you are 21 or after you begin having sexual intercourse.  It is especially important for those who live at risk of sexually transmitted disease.  Virgins need the exam only if there are abnormal symptoms or discharges.
  • Colonoscopy or other colon cancer screening - before the age of 50, usually sample after wiping after a bowel movement is checked for presence of blood in a lab, at the age of 50, it is suggested that women and men have a colonoscopy every 5 years.  In my case, they found a benign polyp, so I was told to come back for one in 3 years.  If nothing is found, then I can wait 5 years again.  If your family is at high risk for colon cancer, colonoscopy may be recommended at a younger age.
  • Skin exam for skin cancer - there are 3 common skin cancers, the most serious being Melanoma - with so many spending time in tanning salons and not being careful when spending time in the sun, examining the skin for abnormalities is important.  
  • Oral Exam - this is done to watch for any abnormalities in the mouth and gums, especially important for those who smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol on a regular basis.
Please look at my posts under the general category of "Cancer" for more on this topic.  I'll add a post about tests for men soon.  

Updated 1/20/16

Please comment if you have a question.

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