Preventative screenings play a vital role in maintaining overall wellness, especially for women. Starting at age 21, women should begin getting regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. They should get a Pap smear every 3 years between the ages of 21 and 30.
If they are 30 or older, and their Pap test is normal and HPV test is negative, they can wait 5 years before being tested again for cervical cancer.
If they have a hysterectomy where the cervix is removed, they don’t need a Pap smear unless it was removed because of uterine or cervical cancer. In that case, they need a Pap smear every year for 20 years. It is important for women to discuss their personal and family health history with their doctor, as this may factor into how frequent the screenings should be completed.
While it is recommended that women begin going for yearly mammograms at age 40 to screen for breast cancer, women in their 30s should begin looking for changes in their breasts. Those include change in breast size, shape and color, an inverted nipple, and bloody or clear spontaneous discharge. Women should listen to their bodies; sometimes you can see a lump better than you can feel it. If you can feel pain in a specific place with 2 fingers or less (not the entire breast), you should also talk to your doctor. Women should also pay attention to changes in their armpit area as well.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world, and it can become very serious and difficult to treat if not detected early. Therefore, it is important for men and women to regularly examine their skin and recognize which spots are not concerning versus which ones are concerning. While there is no specific age that is recommended for skin cancer screenings to begin, they are recommended once a year. If you are concerned about a spot or growth on your skin, it is important to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or a dermatologist as soon as possible to be professionally examined. Like all cancer, the sooner it’s detected, the better the treatment outcomes.
Low-dose CT lung cancer screening is the only proven, research-supported method of detecting lung cancer at an early and treatable stage, which is why Cone Health has developed a lung cancer screening program for patients in the community. Since the screening program has been available, Cone Health has found more cases of stage I lung cancer than ever before, even in patients without symptoms. Individuals who are eligible for the program must:
- Be between the ages of 55 and 77.
- Smoke or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.
- Have a 30-pack-a-year history of smoking (1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years).
Cone Health offers several free screenings throughout the year. For more information, visit conehealth.com/screenings.
Christine Brannock, BSN, RN, OCN, is the oncology outreach manager at Cone Health Cancer Center. Brannock earned a Bachelor of Science in public health education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2001, an associate degree in nursing at Guilford Technical Community College in 2004, Bachelor of Science in nursing from East Carolina University in May 2016, and is an Oncology Certified Nurse. She has been an employee at Cone Health for nearly 20 years.