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6 Cancer Screening Tests for Women

Getting Recommended Screenings Can Help Catch Cancer Early

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Updated November 17, 2008

Screening tests are a vital part of your health care. They can often times catch cancer in its earliest stages, long before any actual symptoms may be noticed.

There are particular cancer screening tests that are important for women. Each are highly effective and recommended for all females, although some tests are only performed at certain ages. Learn what you should get, and when you should get it, so you can take a more active role in your health care.

Pap Smear for Cervical Cancer

A Pap smear is a highly effective test that screens for cervical cancer in women. The test involves the collecting of cells from the cervix to be examined under a microscope. It is not a diagnostic test, however. That means that if any abnormalities are discovered, more testing will be needed to make a formal diagnosis.

Pelvic Exam for Gynecologic Cancers

A regular pelvic exam is necessary for all women. A pelvic exam is one of the first steps in diagnosing several conditions such as gynecologic cancers and sexually transmitted diseases. How often a woman needs a pelvic exam varies depending on her risk factors for certain conditions and previous exam findings. A pelvic exam is often accompanied by the Pap smear.

Mammogram for Breast Cancer

Women who are over 40 or at high risk for developing breast cancer need to have a regular mammogram. A screening mammogram is able to detect breast abnormalities that could signal breast cancer. Aside from regular mammograms, women of all ages should perform monthly breast self exams to check for abnormalities.

Colonoscopy or Other Recommended Colon Cancer Screening Test

Several tests are available to screen for colon cancer. Your doctor will recommend a colon cancer screening test based on your colon cancer risk factors, age and general health. Common examples of colon cancer screening tests include colonoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.

Colon cancer screening normally begins for men and women who are over 50. However, those who are at an increased risk for the disease may begin screening earlier.

Clinical Skin Exam for Skin Cancer

You should check your skin for abnormalities every month at home. Each year, however, you should have a clinical skin exam. During a clinical skin exam, a doctor visually examines the skin to look for any new developments or changes to existing moles or spots. Remember, if you find anything abnormal, report it to your doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait for your yearly exam.

Oral Exam for Oral Cancer

A yearly oral exam is not only necessary to prevent and detect dental problems, but also to screen for oral cancer. Before the exam, the dentist may ask if you smoke, chew tobacco or drink alcohol. It is important to let your dentist know if you have these habits so he or she can determine your risk of developing oral cancer. During an oral exam, the doctor will visually exam your mouth and gums, checking for oral cancer symptoms.
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