It’s true that women have longer life expectancies than men and are less likely to get cancer in their lifetime. However, there are still quite a few cancers that are exclusive to or more likely to affect women. Some of the most common cancers in women are breast cancer, cervical, and ovarian cancer.
With so many cancers to worry about, though, how do you know what to screen for and when? If you want to make sure you’re following best practices for early diagnosis and overall health, here’s a comprehensive guide to cancer screenings for women.
Things to Consider Before You Get Screened
While screening for cancers is undeniably important, there are several factors that will influence when and how often to schedule cancer screenings for women. First, family history plays a role. Did your mother or grandmother have breast cancer or other types of cancers? If you have a family history of a particular form of cancer, you are more likely to be affected by that type. So screening for it early and often becomes exponentially more important.
Your screening schedule will also depend on your stage of life. Each cancer has specific suggestions for screening based on age, including when to start testing and how often to get another. Screening schedules tend to accelerate as you age, because the older you are, the more likely you’ll develop some form of cancer.
Lastly, health and lifestyle — as well as any other diseases and disorders you may have — impact screening because they affect your likelihood of getting cancer. For example, if you have celiac disease and you manage it poorly, you are at a higher risk of cancer. For women, the same goes for lifestyle, weight, and overall health. These factors can greatly influence your likelihood of getting top cancers affecting women, including breast cancer.
Top Cancers That Women Should Watch Out for
There are a lot of cancers out there, some rare and some common. But which ones should women most closely monitor? For one, breast cancer, which is the leading cancer affecting women worldwide. There’s also ovarian and cervical cancer, which are exclusive to women.
However, there are a few less obvious forms of cancer that women should also be aware of. For example, colorectal and lung cancer are also leading cancers affecting women worldwide. In fact, lung cancer accounts for 25% of all cancer deaths.
To help you track your health across the board, here are the leading cancers that affect women, and some guidelines about screening for each.
Screening for Breast Cancer
While breast cancer affects men as well as women, it’s decidedly rarer among males. In fact, it’s 1000 times more likely in women than in men, so this is definitely one for women to prioritize. The most common form of screening for breast cancer is a mammogram, a test that gently squeezes your breast and x-rays for any signs of cancer.
- Women ages 40-44 can begin getting a yearly screening for safety’s sake — for example, if they are concerned about a family history of the disease.
- Women ages 45-54 should get screened every year.
- Women ages 55 and older can switch to biyearly screening.
Screening for Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer can affect women no matter their age, but it’s more likely to happen in older women. If you’ve never had children or waited until after the age of 35 to have your first child, your chances of getting ovarian cancer increase. If you have had other cancers before, you are also at an increased risk.
However, there is no standard pre-emptive screening for ovarian cancer. Despite common misconceptions, pap smears do not check for ovarian cancer. If you don’t have any symptoms, the typical tests won’t be administered.
If you do begin to have symptoms that would indicate that ovarian cancer might be the cause, your doctor will immediately administer a blood test or a transvaginal ultrasound.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is typically caused by a mutation of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is actually a sexually transmitted infection. Your best scenario for prevention is a vaccination against the common strains of HPV that cause cancer. Outside of vaccination, you can screen for cervical cancer through a targeted HPV test or pap smear.
Women ages 25-65 should get a pap smear or HPV test every three years. Testing does not need to begin before the age of 25, and women over 65 who haven’t abnormal results can cease screening.
Those who have received the HPV vaccine should still get tested according to normal recommendations.
Screening for Uterine/Endometrial Cancer
Much like ovarian cancer, there is no regular screening for uterine or endometrial cancer for women. Women at higher risks for these types of cancer should see their physician if they exhibit any signs that prompt concern.
If the symptoms indicate a likelihood of cancer, a biopsy will be performed.
Screening for Lung Cancer
Screening for lung cancer is only recommended for those who may be at high risk of lung cancer. This includes heavy long-term smokers, those with a genetic factor, and those over between the age of 50 and 80.
The test for lung cancer is a low-dose CT scan. It should be noted, however, that this form of testing does come with risks, including false positives.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is just as likely to affect women as other types of cancers, but thankfully there is an easy test to screen for it — a colonoscopy. Those between the ages of 45-75 should be screened yearly as directed by their doctor.
Test Easy with Aynjil Insurance
At Aynjil, our team understands how devastating cancer can be to you and your loved ones. That’s why we at Aynjil, have designed cancer insurance with you in mind.
Our unique cancer insurance product works in conjunction with your already existing health insurance to provide the best quality of life as you go through cancer treatment. It has been carefully crafted to include often-overlooked benefits to help support and ease your cancer journey — such as providing an au pair to help with your children or transportation to get you to and from appointments. We also understand that preserving your mental health is critical during this time, which is why we have included options for both traditional and alternative therapies.
Looking for peace of mind? Just visit our website to see all that we offer and use our simple, four-minute process to sign up today!
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