Routine check-ups and exams are important to maintain good health. Annual exams, which include a pap smear and breast exam, help identify any irregularities. Early diagnosis is an important factor in successful treatment.
The Pap smear is a test that examines cells collected from the cervix. Its main purpose is to screen for cervical cancer, although it can also detect pre-cancerous cellular changes and HPV. _Dr. George Papanicolaou developed the Pap smear in the 1940’s, and since then, deaths from cervical cancer have decreased by 70%.
How a Pap smear is performed:
Surface cells from the cervix are collected with a small brush. The test takes only a few minutes to perform and should not be painful.
Why Pap smears are important:
• Early detection of cellular changes of the cervix is critical for successful treatment.
• Although some cellular changes detected by a Pap smear can be normal, it is
important to monitor these changes for any cancerous activity.
• Cervical abnormalities leading to cancer usually have no noticeable symptoms.
How often women should get a Pap smear:
• Yearly Pap smears are recommended for women once they become sexually active.
• If you have had an abnormal Pap smear in the past, your health practitioner may
recommend more frequent Pap smears.
For more information on Pap Smears and Cervical Cancer:
The American Society of Clinical Pathologists offers an excellent website with comprehensive information about pap smears: www.ascp.org/
The National Cancer Institute has a website that provides extensive information about cervical cancer: cancernet.nci.nih.gov
The Cervical Cancer Resource Center is the website from the American Cancer Society that provides thorough information and the latest in detection and treatment: www.cancer.org/
The American Medical Women’s Association has a website about the National Cervical Cancer Education Campaign, which is a partnership among many organizations. It also has answers to frequently asked questions about cervical cancer: www.cervicalcancercampaign.org/
Breast cancer is caused by a malignant tumor in the breast tissue. A tumor is a lump of cells. Most breast lumps are benign (do not cause cancer), but some are malignant (cancerous). All women need to be aware of the risks of breast cancer because the majority of cases happen in women who do not have a family history of breast cancer or any other known risk factors.
Some facts about Breast Cancer:
• Breast cancer occurs in about 1 out of 8 women.
• Early detection is key to successful treatment.
• About 185,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year.
• Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 35-54.
Get regular yearly exams, perform monthly breast self-examinations, and if you are over 40, yearly or semi-annual mammograms are recommended by many experts. Following menopause or age 50, yearly mammograms are encouraged.
It is recommended that you perform a breast self-examination once a month, right after your period. Breast self-exams are important so that if you develop a lump that is not normally present, you can detect it early. Early detection of breast lumps significantly increases the success of identifying and treating breast cancer. Your health care provider can teach you how to perform breast self-exams or you can look up instructions on the Internet. A good website with explanations and pictures of how to perform a self-exam is:
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center