Back to Document
A Woman's Guide to Cancer Screenings
You run two miles every other day and lift weights twice a week. You've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. You don't smoke. When it comes to your health, you figure you've got everything covered. But when was the last time you saw your health care provider for a health screening?
Preventive care screenings are vital to everyone's health. For women, Pap tests with or without human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, clinical breast exams, and mammograms are important tools for early detection of disease. Yet many women don't have these tests. There are many reasons for this: no time, fear of finding something, or forgetfulness. If you are afraid of getting bad news, remember this: The vast majority of screening tests come back normal, and even those that don't often do not mean cancer is present. These screenings can help you and your health care provider catch cancer at an early stage when it can be treated successfully.
Health screenings are an investment in your future. Here is a guide to screenings that the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say every woman at average cancer risk needs for continued good health. These recommendations are for the average woman. Some women with higher risk may need to be screened with a different schedule because of a personal or family history of cancer. Talk with your provider to determine what schedule is best for you.
Pap test and HPV test
Pap tests can detect precancerous changes in the cells of your cervix before they become cancer. They can also detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when it can be treated most easily. HPV infection causes most of the cervical cell changes that lead to cervical cancer. So getting regular Pap tests with or without HPV testing gives you a better chance of preventing cancer. Occasionally, Pap tests can also help detect some cancers of the uterus and other parts of the female reproductive system.
How are these tests performed?
During a Pap test, your health care provider will gently scrape cells from the outside of the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. These cells are sent to a lab for analysis. The cells can also be used for a separate HPV test that is done at the same time. If your health care provider tells you your Pap test results are abnormal, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Abnormal cells may indicate an infection or another cause, or they may signal precancerous changes in your cells. If you have an abnormal Pap test, your health care provider will do follow-up tests to determine the cause. If your test shows that you have HPV, your health care provider will talk to you about whether you need any other tests.
Many women feel uncomfortable about having these tests. If you are nervous about them, talk with your health care provider. There may be things he or she can do to make you feel more comfortable.
According to the ACS, all women should have Pap tests starting at age 21. Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called co-testing) every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also acceptable to continue to have Pap tests alone every three years. Women over age 65 who have had regular screening with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Once screening is stopped, it should not be started again. A woman who has had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious precancer should not be screened. A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.
Clinical breast exams
A clinical breast exam is an exam of the breast by a health care provider or other health professional.
It is important to know how your breasts usually look and feel. You may want to talk with your health care provider about breast self exams. If you feel any lumps or notice any other changes, talk with your health care provider as soon as possible.
How is it performed?
The health care provider will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. If any abnormalities are found, you may need a mammogram or an ultrasound, depending on how old you are. Mammograms are not good screening tools for young women.
For women 20 to 39, the ACS recommends that clinical breast examination (CBE) be part of a periodic health examination, preferably at least every three years. Asymptomatic women ages 40 and older should continue to receive a CBE as part of a periodic health examination, preferably every year.
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is a safe, effective way to detect cancerous tumors and other abnormal breast conditions. Mammograms can locate a tumor before it can be easily felt and while it is easier to treat.
How is it performed?
During a mammogram, a technician will X-ray each breast twice, once from above and once from the side. To do this, each breast must be compressed between two flat plates so that an accurate image can be taken. This can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds. It may help to schedule this test for the week after your menstrual period when your breasts are less tender and lumpy. On the day of the mammogram, do not use deodorants, lotions, or powders. These products can show up on the image.
Digital mammography, which is approved by the FDA, records X-ray images in computer code and stores them electronically instead of on X-ray film, as with conventional mammography. There is no difference in your preparation or the procedure for a mammogram with a digital system.
If any abnormalities show up on the mammogram, your health care provider may recommend more tests and maybe a biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue) to check for cancer.
Get your mammogram at a site approved by the FDA for conventional or digital mammography. The FDA ensures that facilities across the country meet quality standards for safety and reliability.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram every two years for women aged to 50 to 74. The ACS and other organizations have different age recommendations. Talk with your health care provider about when you should start having mammograms, and how often you should have them. He or she will make a recommendation based on your risk and your medical and family history.
Colorectal cancer screening
Regular screening tests for colorectal cancer should start at age 50 for women at average risk. There are different kinds of tests that can be done and each has its own recommended schedule.
What is the test?
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)* with at least 50 percent test sensitivity for cancer, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with at least 60 percent sensitivity for cancer, or
Annual, starting at age 50
Flexible sigmoidoscopy, or
Every five years, starting at age 50
Double-contrast barium enema, or
Every five years, starting at age 50
Every 10 years, starting at age 50
Every five years, starting at age 50
*FOBT as it is sometimes done in doctors' offices, with the single stool sample collected on a fingertip during a digital rectal examination, is not an adequate substitute for the recommended at-home procedure of collecting two samples from three consecutive specimens. Toilet bowl FOBT tests also are not recommended. In comparison with guaiac-based tests for the detection of occult blood, immunochemical tests are more patient-friendly, and are likely to be equal or better in sensitivity and specificity.
There is no justification for repeating FOBT in response to an initial positive finding.
The Department of Radiology is proud to introduce its new state-of-the-art Digital Mammography System in the fight against breast cancer. Broward Health Imperial Point patients now have access to the latest full-field digital technology for screening and diagnostic mammograms. This new technology enables the Radiologist to detect and further characterize suspicious or obscure pathology more precisely from the enhanced visibility and high contrast images the new system provides.
When it's time for your annual mammogram, ask your physician to prescribe a digital mammogram at Broward Health Imperial Point. Digital mammography is your newest ally in the fight against breast cancer. Digital images appear in seconds on a computer screen, revealing an exciting new world of diagnostic possibilities.
- Better visibility at the skin line
- Greater image flexibility
- Shorter exam times
- Faster results
- Fewer call backs
- Less anxiety
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc, breast cancer incidence in women has increased from one in 20 in 1960 to one in eight today. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for this disease exceeds 95%.
Similar to conventional film mammography, digital mammography utilizes the same breast positioning and compression. However, the new digital system allows for significantly less compression time during the mammogram, in addition to less waiting time between patients.
What are the benefits of digital mammography?
- Up to 40% less radiation dose over standard film mammography
- Results are seen more quickly
- Fewer callbacks or retakes
- More precise image quality for more accurate diagnosis
Give yourself the best technology when you schedule your annual mammogram!
Changing breast care forever
Request your digital mammogram for all the right reasons:
A digital mammography exam usually takes less than half the time of a traditional film-based exam, and there's less of a chance you'll be called back to retake your images.
Your physician will gain viewing options with the unique ability to enhance certain areas to get a more precise picture of your condition.
Your breast images can be zoomed in and out, and the contrast can be lightened or darkened. Also, through an inverting feature, black can reverse to white and white can change to black. This feature helps detect microcalcifications, which is like revealing a grain of salt in a ball of clay. All these image enhancements help aid in proper diagnosis.
Digital images give better visibility of the breast, particularly near the skin line, chest wall and in women with dense breast tissue. Also, digital images are helpful for women with implants and for imaging patients with known abnormalities.
Digital images can be viewed on workstations anywhere in the world allowing physicians to compare current images to past images.
Breast MRI Screening
For high risk patients, breast MRI can detect minuscule breast cancers. Breast MRI is a breast-imaging technique that captures multiple cross-sectional pictures of the breast and combines them to create detailed, 2-D and 3-D pictures. It is performed when doctors need more information than what a mammogram, ultrasound or clinical breast exam can provide. It works regardless of breast size, density, patient age, presence of implants and/or prior surgery.
Other benefits include:
- Detects 2-8% more cancers than physical exams or mammography
- Almost 100% sensitive for breast cancers down to 3 mm
- Allows for earlier diagnosis with more favorable tumor stage
Early detection is on your side
Every day we learn more about breast cancer and how to win the battle. One fact is very clear – the distinct advantage of early detection. Fortunately, breast cancer is highly detectable through digital mammography screening. If breast cancer is detected early, before it spreads, 98 percent of the women will be alive five years later. The earlier it’s discovered, the earlier it’s treated, the better your chance of survival.
Still have questions?
Find the answers to the most common questions about digital mammography here.
If you have a physician prescription for a mammogram, call Central Scheduling at 954-759-7500 for an appointment at Broward Health Imperial Point.
If you need a physician referral, please call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400.