Cancer Screenings for Women: What You Need to Know

Monday, October 12, 2015

Jennine Varhola, DO, FACOG

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in the United States after heart disease. Fortunately, we have many effective screening tests available that help with prevention, early detection, and survival rate. Each cancer is different and screening guidelines vary from person to person. It is important that you talk with your doctor and educate yourself about the screening methods that are right for you.
  • Vaccination is recommended for females (and males) under the age of 26 for human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer.
  • If you don’t have a family history of cervical cancer, a Pap test is recommended every three to five years as long as the results are consistently normal. Additionally, testing for HPV is also available.
  • If you have a history of cervical cancer or have an abnormal Pap test, talk to your doctor about how often you should get screened.
  • If you start having abnormal or heavy vaginal bleeding, talk to your gynecologist about getting screened for endometrial cancer.
  • Procedures such as pelvic ultrasounds and in-office biopsies can help detect this treatable cancer.
  • It is recommended that women over 50 receive annual mammograms.
  • Some doctors recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40 to increase early detection, especially if you are at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
  • If at any age you feel a suspicious lump or mass that does not go away with your normal menstrual cycle, please schedule a breast exam.
  • The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends low-dose CT scans of the chest to screen for lung cancer.
  • If you are a current or former smoker, are age 55-79, have a 30 pack-year history of smoking, and would be willing and able to undergo curative treatment if a lung cancer was found, you should consider getting screened for lung cancer.
  • When diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is ninety percent.
  • If you are over the age of 50 and do not have a family history of colon cancer, you should get a colonoscopy every ten years as long as the results are consistently normal.
  • If you have a history of colorectal cancer or have abnormal colonoscopy results, talk to your doctor about how often you should get screened.
THE BOTTOM LINE? Screening is one of the keys to catching cancer early. Regular visits to your primary care provider and your gynecologist can help you choose the cancer screening tests that are right for you.

Dr. Jennine Varhola, OB/GYN
Dr. Jennine Varhola is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist at The Oregon Clinic. She specializes in full-spectrum obstetrics, abnormal Paps, minimally invasive surgery, birth control, and preventative well-woman care.