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Cancer screenings detect cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat. These tests can identify cancer before there are obvious symptoms. In some cases, they can even prevent cancer by finding and removing precancerous growths.
Dignity Health North State doctors use the latest technology to screen women for cancer. We understand that early detection is essential. In fact, our “Breast Assured” breast cancer prevention seminars can help you learn how to lower your risk. Find a Doctor with expertise in cancer screenings for women in Northern California today.
Every woman should have a clinical breast exam as part of her regular health checkup. Your doctor will visually examine your breasts and feel your breasts and underarms for changes in texture and lumps.
Doctors recommend a yearly mammogram for breast health beginning at age 40. A mammogram uses X-rays to make an image of the breast. You may need to begin these screenings at a younger age if you are at increased risk for breast cancer.
Women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years from ages 50 to 75. These tests should start earlier if you have an increased risk for colon cancer.
Colonoscopy involves inserting a flexible lighted tube into the colon through the rectum. The exam can be uncomfortable, but it’s brief. You will need to clean out your colon before the test. Sedation will keep you comfortable. Your doctor can also remove any suspicious lesions or polyps during the exam.
Pap smear testing (Pap test) should begin at age 21. The recommended frequency will depend on your medical history, risk factors, and age.
During the exam, your doctor inserts a speculum into the vagina to widen the canal. A cotton swab is inserted until it reaches the cervix. A sample of cervical cells is collected and sent to a pathologist to look for cancerous or precancerous cells.
Women who were heavy smokers or with a long history of smoking should consider having a low-dose CT scan of the lungs starting at age 50. Your doctor can use this X-ray image of your lungs to find even small tumors. Most women can stop this screening at age 74, but ask your doctor what’s right for you.
For women with a high risk of developing uterine (endometrial) cancer, yearly biopsies of the lining of the uterus may be recommended. Risk factors for uterine cancer include previous radiation treatment to the pelvis, previous cancer of the breast or ovaries, estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy, and a family history of endometrial cancer.
Sometimes the benefits of cancer screening may not outweigh the risks. Talk with your doctor about the risks of screening exams and which ones are right for you.