Awareness and early detection are the keys to staying ahead of dangerous diseases that impact women.
MAYBE YOU SPENT all day at the office, meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations. Or perhaps your focus has been on attending to responsibilities at home: cleaning, cooking, and taking care of kids. When life gets busy, making an appointment to check in with your healthcare provider is probably the last thing on your mind. But regular screenings can help you detect serious medical conditions such as cervical and breast cancers.
“Thinking about these diseases can be scary to some women,” says Nathaniel Evans, D.O., FACOG, OB/GYN at Summit Healthcare. “But finding issues early is the key to living a longer and healthier life. If a woman hasn’t seen her primary care provider for a while, I encourage her to make an appointment to check in.”
Two Vital Tests
Cervical cancer screenings—Many women who develop cervical cancer were once exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the cervix to develop precancerous cells. When HPV goes untreated, cervical cancer may form.
Women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer through HPV vaccination and by having Pap tests and HPV screenings regularly, as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:
- women ages 21–29: Pap test every three years
- women ages 30–65: Pap test and HPV screening every five years
“The incidence and mortality of cervical cancer has decreased almost 50 percent with the use of widespread screening,” Dr. Evans says. “Women should also have annual well-woman exams to discuss prevention and management of other conditions that commonly impact women, such as breast cancer and heart disease.”
Mammograms—One of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, breast cancer is more likely to develop in women who have a parent, sibling, or child with breast or ovarian cancer, and in women who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. No one is immune from the condition, however, so regular mammograms are important. Healthcare providers typically begin performing clinical breast exams when women are 25 to 39 years of age. They may recommend routine mammograms for women ages 40 through 75.
Don’t Neglect Your Heart!
Although breast cancer grabs a lot of health headlines, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death in women. In fact, heart disease causes more deaths in women than all types of cancer combined. In addition to undergoing regular screenings for cervical and breast cancers, take advantage of free annual wellness visits, when your primary care provider can measure your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other markers of heart health.
At home, take these steps to reduce the risk of developing and dying from heart disease.
- Fill your plate with fresh produce and lean protein.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit.
- Make exercise a priority.
To schedule your well-woman exam, call 928.537.0635.