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Comprehensive guide to cancer prevention for women

January 05, 2018

The start of a new year is the perfect time to make a commitment to yourself and to your health. Of course, a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep always top the list for things you can do to live your best life and maintain optimal health and wellness.

Another way? Preventive care and regular screenings.

More than 850,000 women in the United States were estimated to receive a new cancer diagnosis in 2017. While no one can predict with absolute certainty if, when and where in the body cancer may rear its ugly head, following cancer prevention and screening guidelines can go a long way in detecting the disease in its early stages and improve patient outcomes.

Matthew Knecht, MD, radiation oncologist with Kettering Cancer Care, helps to highlight the key preventive screenings based on a woman’s age. “There are multiple organizations that make recommendations for when screening should begin, who should receive them, and when the screenings should stop,” explained Dr. Knecht. “Specific questions or concerns regarding screenings should always be discussed with your doctor.”

Here are some of the general guidelines for cancer prevention and screening:

Women in their 20s and 30s

Breast cancer:

  • Schedule a clinical breast exam every three years
  • Familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes
  • Talk with your physician about your family history and risk

Cervical cancer:

  • Talk with your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine before the age of 26 (the recommended age is 11 or 12)
  • Schedule an HPV test and Pap test every five years, or a Pap test only every three years

Ovarian, colorectal, endometrial and lung cancer:

  • Talk with your doctor about your family history and risk

“Using the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations as a guide, a woman in her 30s should undergo cervical cancer screening and should discuss genetic risks, if she has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Knecht.

Women in their 40s

Breast cancer:

  • Familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes
  • Schedule an annual clinical breast exam
  • Begin annual mammograms at age 40

Cervical cancer:

  • Schedule an HPV test and Pap test every five years, or a Pap test only every three years

Ovarian cancer:

  • Report any ongoing abdominal swelling; digestive problems; pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs; or a constant feeling of needing to urinate

“For women in their 40s, the USPSTF recommends only selective use of mammography,” said Dr. Knecht. “However, other organizations, such as the American College of Radiology, recommend screening begin for everyone at age 40, with continuation of cervical cancer screening and genetic counseling, if not already done.” 

Women 50+

Breast cancer

  • Familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel so you can detect any changes
  • Schedule an annual clinical breast exam
  • Have an annual mammogram

Cervical cancer

  • Up to age 65: Schedule an HPV test and Pap test every five years or a Pap test only every three years
  • Over 65: If you have had three or more consecutive normal HPV and Pap tests, or a total hysterectomy, you can stop cervical cancer screening

Ovarian cancer

  • Report any ongoing abdominal swelling; digestive problems; pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs; or a constant feeling of needing to urinate

Colorectal cancer

  • Schedule a colonoscopy or similar screening every 5-10 years, depending on the test

Endometrial cancer

  • After menopause, report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to your physician

Lung cancer

  • Ages 55-74: If you are a current or former smoker with at least a 30-pack-per-year history or a 20-pack-per-year history plus additional risk factors, you may be a candidate for an annual low-dose CT scan. (A pack-year equals the number of cigarette packs smoked each day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked.)

“The same guidelines for lung screening applies for those age 55-80 who have quit in the last 15 years,” explained Dr. Knecht.

Learn More

Join us for our Ladies Luncheon about Women’s Cancer Prevention on January 21 at Soin Medical Center. Learn from our expert physician panel how you can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Click here to register today or call (937) 558-3988.