There are things you can do every day to help avoid getting cancer. Two of the most important things you can do are making healthy choices and getting the right screening tests for you, such as mammograms and pap smears.
Make Healthy Choices
- Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to lower your cancer risk. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. If you don’t smoke, make sure you stay away from other people’s smoke.
- Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or artificial sources like a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp can cause skin cancer, the most common cancer.
- Drinking alcohol raises your risk of getting six kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
- About 40% of all cancers are associated with being overweight and obese.
Screening Tests: Mammograms and Pap Smears
Early detection is one of the game changers when it comes to cancer. Make sure to keep up with your regular screenings so you can find cancer early when treatment works best.
Mammograms: Breast Cancer Screening
Doctors recommend yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40. About every three years, women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE). For women 40 and over, it should be every year. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Women in their 20s could also conduct breast self-exams (BSE) regularly.
Because of genetic tendency, family history, or certain other factors, some women should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms (the number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all the women in the US). Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.
Pap Smears: Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer screening tests should begin at age 21, but not under 21. Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. The HPV test is now available. However, HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless needed after an abnormal Pap test result. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) every five years. While co-testing is the preferred approach, it’s OK to have a Pap test alone.
Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, you should not start it again. Women with a serious cervical pre-cancer history should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
Due to their health history, some women may need a different screening schedule for cervical cancer. Consult with your doctor about what is right for you.
All of us at Creekside Center for Women care about your health. If you have questions about mammograms and pap smears, call today to schedule an appointment. 479.582.9268