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Women’s Health: Cancer Screenings

With October celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness month, and pink ribbons and paraphernalia all around us, it is hard not to think about our risk for disease and what we can do to prevent it.  The American Cancer Society says, “If Americans ate a healthy, balanced diet that emphasized plant foods and helped maintain a healthy weight, as many as one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented.” 

The ACS also supports and informs us of studies that show physical activity’s benefits and contributions towards reducing risk of cancer.  In addition to diet and exercise though, we can still take action in maintaining our health and preventing cancer from becoming deadly.  Cancer Screening means checking for a disease when there are no signs or symptoms.  Sometimes waiting for the signs to show up is too late – so take action for your health!  Review the top 4 screenings for women’s health below, and make your appointment today.

  1. Pap Smear screening for Cervical Cancer – Cervical Cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women.  Over the past 40 years, the CDC reports the number of cases and deaths have decreased significantly, large due to the screening, which can catch abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.  Women should begin with this screening about 3 years after becoming sexually active, or by age 21.  This screening is done every 1-2 years, depending on the type of test.  This screening tests for abnormal cells only, and may require further testing if abnormal results occur. 
  2. Mammogram for Breast Cancer – Prior to age 40, it is recommended that women perform self breast exams to be familiar with how your breasts feel and to report any changes right away.  Your doctor can also perform a breast exam at the time of your pap smear screening.  At age 40+, women should schedule an annual mammogram for a more detailed screening for breast cancer.
  3. Colonoscopy for Colon Cancer – There are a variety of screenings for colon cancer.  Speak with your doctor about the one that makes the most sense for you.  This screening should be held once you turn 50 years old.  Examples of screenings include: Yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT), fecal immunochemical test (FIT), Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, Colonoscopy, Double contrast barium enema, or CT colonography. 
  4. Clinical Exam for Skin Cancer – It is important to look over your skin for abnormal or changing areas, especially moles.  This can usually be done during a regular health checkup.  Follow this link for great tips on self examination, along with a chart for mole mapping.

A few more resources for Women’s Health screenings:
http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/   http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/InformationforHealthCareProfessionals/FactSheets/index

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