Women's cancer screening

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Women's cancer screening is an essential tool for early detection in all women who otherwise have no symptoms, or don't recognize the symptoms as being related to cancer. Screening means the test is done for a particular disease, on a person who has no sign of trouble. For this reason, some cancer screenings are usually reserved for high-risk individuals. Other screenings, like Pap smears, are performed on a more routine basis. The American Cancer Society recommends that women 18 years of age have their first cancer screening. This should include general health counseling and a thorough physical examination of the mouth, thyroid, skin, lymph nodes, breasts, and ovaries. Women should have physical breast exams by the doctor at least every three years up to age 40, and yearly thereafter. Yearly pelvic examinations with a Pap smear are also advised. Pap tests can find abnormal changes in the cervix, often before they become cancerous, and are recommended for all sexually active females. An initial baseline mammogram (MAM-oh-gram) should be done between the ages of 35 and 39. From age 40 to 49, the pelvic examinations with a pap test should be done yearly and should include a digital rectal examination. Mammograms should be performed every one to two years at the discretion of you and your doctor. An endometrial (end-o-MEE-tree-al) tissue sampling is suggested at menopause (MEN-o-pause) in high-risk women. Beginning at age 50, yearly cancer screening should include a stool test for blood and a mammogram. Examination of the colon by endoscopy (en-DOSS-coe-pee) should be done every three to five years. It's suggested that earlier or more frequent screening be done for those individuals at higher risk for cancer, such as when a family history of cancer exists. Consult your health care provider for the proper timing of such examinations and tests.

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