Cancer Screening

Women's Healthcare Group -  - Obstetrics

Women's Healthcare Group

Obstetrics & Gynecology located in York, PA

Women’s cancers are often silent killers since they may have no obvious signs or symptoms. Because of this, routine cervical cancer screenings and annual exams offered by Women’s Healthcare Group in York, Pennsylvania, can help you stay in optimal health. Whether you have a family history of gynecological cancer, or if you haven’t had a cancer screening in a while, the dedicated team of OB/GYNs can help. Book your cancer screening evaluation by clicking on the online scheduler or by calling to speak with a team member.

Cancer Screening Q & A

What is Cancer?

Your cells are supposed to grow, divide, and be replaced on an ongoing basis. Sometimes though, cells divide abnormally and start growing out of control, which can lead to growths or tumors.

Depending on the type of growth, tumors can either be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors don’t spread to other tissues, although they can continue to grow and cause problems. The malignant tumors are more of a concern because they invade and attack nearby tissues, bones, and organs, and can even spread to other parts of your body.

Is Cancer Hereditary?

Yes, cancer often runs in families. If someone in your immediate family has a certain type of cancer, your risk of developing it is much higher compared to someone who does not have a blood relative with cancer. Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome means that you have an inherited risk of gene mutations, especially the BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are natural suppressors, meaning they can keep cells from growing too rapidly. While everyone has these genes, if the mutation runs in your family and your testing shows you have it, you have a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

For instance, normally the average risk of developing breast cancer among American women is around 12% in her lifetime. But if you have a BRCA mutation, your estimated risk of breast cancer skyrockets to 45-85% by age 70.

Alternatively, the average risk of developing ovarian cancer among American women is about 2%. This estimated risk climbs to 10-27% by age 70 if you have a BRCA2 mutation and up to 39-46% by age 70 if you have a BRCA1 mutation.

BRCA mutations can even increase your risk of cancer of your fallopian tubes, peritoneum, pancreas, and even skin. Occasionally though, cancer develops because of environmental factors, sexually transmitted disease, or even lifestyle choices, such as smoking.

What are the Most Common Gynecological Cancers?

Your OB/GYN plays an important role in preventive care. It’s their job to conduct screenings, exams, and lab tests to check for gynecological cancers. Some of the most common gynecological cancers women face include:

  • Ovarian
  • Uterine
  • Cervical
  • Endometrial
  • Vaginal
  • Vulvar

Scheduling routine cancer screenings are essential for preventing serious disease and ensuring you stay in optimal health.

What is a Cervical Cancer Screening?

Your cervix is the opening of your uterus and is located at the top of your vagina. The purpose of cervical cancer screening or cervical cytology, commonly called a Pap smear or Pap test, is to evaluate the cells of your cervix to see if they have any abnormal changes.

Cervical cancer screening can also involve human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, since certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection transmitted during intercourse.

Many HPV infections resolve on their own, but for some women, the infection leads to abnormal changes in cervical cells. Both the Pap test and the HPV screenings simply involve taking a few small samples of your cervical cells by gentle scraping of the area.

Does Cervical Cancer Cause Symptoms?

Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious. Cervical cancer can lead to:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Unexplained pelvic pain
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Unusual vaginal discharge, typically watery
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

These signs and symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. They could be a sign of an infection or other condition. In any case, though, it’s important to have a comprehensive cancer screening and women’s health evaluation at Women’s Healthcare Group if any of these issues sound familiar.

What Happens During a Cervical Cancer Screening?

Gynecological cancer screening exams at Women’s Healthcare Group involve a combination of a physical exam, pelvic exam, imaging testing, genetic counseling, and laboratory testing. You may need all of these evaluations or just certain ones.

The Pap smear continues to remain the leading screening test for detecting cervical cancer, so if you’ve had an abnormal Pap test in the past, or just haven’t had one in a while, your OB/GYN might perform this routine test as part of your cancer screening.

This test is performed alone or in combination with an HPV screening.

For testing, you lie back on the exam table with your feet in stirrups, and your OB/GYN places a speculum into your vagina to hold open your vaginal walls. They use a specialized brush and plastic spatula to gently scrape a few samples from your cervix. The entire cancer screening takes just a few minutes.

If you have a family history of certain cancers, like ovarian cancer, you can speak to your provider about seeing a genetic counselor to learn more about inherited cancers and see if you need testing for BRCA mutations. Cancer screenings at Women’s Healthcare Group are as thorough as possible, so you can feel confident that you’re in capable hands. We can also review the option of proceeding to testing depending on your family history.

How Often Do I Need Cervical Cancer Screenings?

Women between 21-29 years of age usually only have a Pap test every three years. For women over the age of 30, it is routine to perform both a Pap smear and HPV test every five years, and a Pap test on its own every three years. You may need more frequent testing if any of the following apply to your health.

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Had a positive Pap test in the past
  • Have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Were exposed to synthetic estrogen known as diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth

It is important to note that if you received the HPV vaccine, you still need routine cervical cancer testing. Your dedicated OB/GYN lets you know how often you should be having your cervical cancer screening, based on your health and previous Pap results. Remember that annual exams are recommended even if you are not due for your Pap test.

When Should I Stop Having Cervical Cancer Screenings?

The expert OB/GYN team at Women’s Healthcare Group typically recommend stopping cervical cancer screenings after age 65 if you don’t have a history of abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer. You can also usually stop cervical cancer screenings after age 65 if you’ve had three negative Pap tests in a row, or two negative Pap and HPV co-tests within the past 10 years (the most recent has to be within the last five years).

If you’ve had a hysterectomy, you may still need cervical cancer screening. It just depends on if your cervix was removed and why you needed the hysterectomy in the first place. Because abnormal cells can still be present, even after your cervix is removed, your OB/GYN at Women’s Healthcare Group may recommend cervical cancer screenings if you have a history of cervical cancer or abnormal cervical cells.

Schedule your cancer screening exam at Women’s Healthcare Group today. Book your visit online or over the phone.