No woman wants to be diagnosed with cancer. However, the earlier cancer is found, the greater your chance of a full recovery. While some screenings are simple and pain-free and others are uncomfortable and even painful, they all have the power to give you a leg up against whatever cancer may be in your body.
What tests should you undergo to catch the most common cancers and provide the best chance at an optimal outcome? You're about to find out.
The most common cancer for women, breast cancer strikes one out of every eight women. To catch breast cancer early, a mammogram is one of the first steps. During a mammogram, your breasts are placed between two surfaces that flatten out your breast tissue while an X-ray is taken. The image is then used to help detect tumors or other abnormalities.
There are differing medical opinions regarding what age to start getting mammograms and how often to get them. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40, whereas other organizations recommend women wait until they are 50 years old to start getting mammograms. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, some organizations recommend yearly screenings starting even earlier.
On the other hand, some organizations recommend screenings every other year instead of each year. If you're not sure how often you should undergo a mammogram, talk with your doctor about your preferences, your risk factors, and the benefits or risks of mammograms.
The standard test for cervical cancer is a Pap test. During this test, your doctor brushes off cells from your cervix, the neck of the uterus, and sends the cells to a lab where they are examined for abnormalities. Your doctor may also perform an HPV (human papillomavirus) DNA lab test to see if you are infected with an HP virus. If you are infected, it could potentially lead to cervical cancer.
It is important to schedule an annual Pap test by age 21 or three years after becoming sexually active (if you become sexually active before age 21). When you turn 30 and you've had normal results for three consecutive years, you can choose to be tested less frequently.
Affecting many women around the globe, colorectal cancer is typically not considered a threat until age 50. Once you have your 50th birthday, it is recommended that undergo your first colonoscopy. In general, women should undergo a subsequent colonoscopy every 10 years after their first test. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, if you're having suspicious symptoms, or if you have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, your doctor will probably recommend more frequent screenings beginning at an earlier age.
Women love having bronze skin. Unfortunately, worshipping the sun can have some major downsides, the greatest one being an increased risk for skin cancer. To check for skin cancer, inspect your skin each month for any changes in the color or size of moles or for suspicious growths on your skin.
Also, after age 20, have your doctor check your body for skin cancer at least every three years, increasing the frequency to once a year after age 40.
To diagnose skin cancer, your doctor will examine changes on your skin. If something is suspicious, a sample of your skin may be removed for a laboratory biopsy. By taking a closer look at the skin, your physician can determine if cancer is present and what type of skin cancer you're dealing with.
Women don't often chew tobacco, but it's still a very really threat. Want to keep an eye on your mouth for cancer? Every month, spend some time looking in the mirror, checking your mouth and lips for unusual sores or changes. And when you go to the dentist, ask him or her to perform an oral exam. With a good visual exam and feeling around the inside of your mouth, your dentist can detect lumps and other abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer.