Understanding Pap Smears and Other Vital Screenings for Women
Gynecological cancer is cancer that affects the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva. Cancer is a health risk for every woman, regardless of family history, and the risk of developing both gynecological cancer and breast cancer increases naturally with age. Fortunately, Pap smears and other important screenings can help to catch cancer in its earliest stages for more effective treatment; talking to your OBGYN about your personal health risks and the screenings you should schedule will help you take proactive steps toward lifelong health.
The Pap test examines a small cell sample taken from the cervix to identify any abnormal cells that may be present. Not only can a Pap smear identify existing cancer cells, but it can also find cells that might become cancerous in the future, allowing for their removal before cancer ever develops. The current guidelines maintained by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the American Society for Clinical Pathology recommend that women receive Pap smears every three years between the ages of 21-29 and a combination of Pap testing and HPV testing every five years from age 30 onward.
Mammography is the use of X-rays to image the breasts. A mammogram may be used as both a screening and a diagnostic tool to identify, pinpoint, or monitor cancerous masses. The American Cancer Society currently recommends that women consider receiving mammograms as early as age 40. All women age 45-54 should receive yearly mammograms, while women age 55 and above may continue yearly screenings or undergo imaging every two years, depending on their individual health risks.
September is both Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. At Riverside Community Hospital, our women’s services providers can help you learn more about your reproductive health and the factors that affect your cancer risk. You can reach us by phone at (951) 788-3463 for information about our women’s and OBGYN services in Riverside, or to obtain a physician referral for a healthcare provider at our hospital.