Why get screened?

Regular check-ups and cancer screenings are important to your health and could save your life. Women should get regular screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Get a Pap test and pelvic exam regularly

When women get regular pelvic exams and Pap tests, abnormal cells on the cervix can be detected and removed before the cells are cancerous.
A Pap test is also the best way to find cervical cancer early so that it can be treated successfully. Through the Pap test, a health care provider can check for abnormal cells and cancer cells on the cervix. When cancer is found early, most women can be cured without having a hysterectomy.
Risk of developing cervical cancer increases with age, especially in women past childbearing years. Pap tests are important because a woman usually doesn't have any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer.

Get a mammogram and clinical breast exam regularly

As women age, the risk of getting breast cancer also increases. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors other than age.
Regular screening mammograms are the best method available to detect breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. A mammogram can find breast cancer before a lump can be felt. In some cases, finding a breast tumor early may mean that a woman can choose surgery that saves her breast, or she may not need chemotherapy.
Regular mammography screening can save lives. Research estimates show that if 10,000 women age 50 were screened every year for 10 years, about 37 lives would be saved.
The most thorough breast screening combines mammography and clinical breast exam. A breast exam by a doctor or nurse can find some cancers missed by mammography.

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening:
Preventing Unnecessary Death Among Women

In the next 10 years, an estimated two million American women will be diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer and half a million women will lose their lives to these diseases.

Many of these deaths could be avoided by making screening services available to all at-risk women. Such screening measures could prevent about one-third of all deaths from breast cancer among women older than age 40 and virtually all deaths from cervical cancer.

Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related death. An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women will be diagnosed in 2009 and 40,170 women will die of this disease.

The incidence of invasive cervical cancer has decreased steadily over the past decades, in large part because of early detection efforts. Even so, an estimated 11,270 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2009, and 4,070 women will die of this disease.

In most cases, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the survival rate. When breast cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. When breast cancer is diagnosed after it has spread, the five-year survival rate decreases to 26 percent.

Cervical cancer screening also offers great benefits. For a woman found to have precancerous cervical lesions or to have cancer in its earliest state, the likelihood of survival is almost 100 percent with timely and appropriate treatment and follow-up.

Benefits of Screening

Mammography is the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage -- an average of 1.7 years before the woman can feel the lump. Mammography also locates cancer too small to be felt during a clinical breast examination.

The primary purpose of cervical cancer screening -- which is performed by a Papanicolaou (Pap) test -- is not to detect cancer but to find precancerous lesions. Detection and treatment of such lesions actually can prevent cervical cancer.