There are many leading causes of death in the world, with cancer being among the primary causes. One of the reasons that cancer is a primary killer is because most people are diagnosed with the disease in its late stages. Most of the people that get the condition diagnosed at its early stages can beat it and survive. This makes cancer screening very crucial because one can have the disease detected in time to treat it. With testing, some types of cancers are detected way before symptoms appear, making it easier to control its spread. Cancer screening is essential as it helps reduce and prevent deaths due to the disease. You do not need to wait to have signs of cancer to get tested, and it is best to have periodic screenings to prevent it if it was to come. At Gyn LA in Los Angeles, we are equipped and able to offer various types of testing to help you and your loved ones prevent the disease altogether.
Various Cancer Screening Tests Available for Women
Cancer affects people from all walks of life and in every gender. There are many types of cancers, and each would require special kinds of screening tests. However, there are a few cancers that their screening methods are not as effective. Nevertheless, a lot of research is being carried out to develop more screening tests to help with all types of cancers.
Here, we will discuss the various types of cancers prevalent in women and screening tests available. As a woman, it is advisable to go for periodic screenings because it can make a difference in your life. If you are in Los Angeles, Gyn LA will help you with the various screenings and advise you on how to take care of yourself.
Breast cancer is among the leading killer cancers in women and the most common. Researchers believe that lifestyle, hormonal, and environmental factors cause breast cancer. These factors are believed to increase the risk of developing the disease. However, there are people with no risk factors that develop the disease, while others with risk factors do not develop it. This has made researchers conclude that the cause of breast cancer is through complex interactions of one’s environment and their genetic makeup.
It is believed that cancer can be inherited. Researchers agree that most breast cancers are linked to mutations of genes that are passed from one generation to the next. If in your family, there is a history of breast cancer, it is highly recommended that you get screened for breast cancer-causing genes.
Various factors have been linked to the increased risk of breast cancer. These include:
- Gender – studies have shown that women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer compared to men.
- Age – as a person ages, the risk of developing breast cancer also increases
- Breast condition history – if in the past, you have had a biopsy that revealed lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or breast hyperplasia, your chances of developing breast cancer are high.
- Breast cancer history – if, in the past, one of your breasts had cancer, the risk of developing cancer in the other breast is also high.
- History of breast cancer in the family – if a family member such as a sister, mother, or daughter has had breast cancer, you are at an increased risk of developing the disease as well.
- Inherited cancer genes – there are genes that, when they mutate, increase the risk of developing breast cancer. If you are found to be a carrier of these genes, you are at a high risk of developing the disease.
- Exposure to radiation – if, as a child or young adult, you were exposed to radiation treatments, especially on your chest, the risk of developing breast cancer is increased.
- Obesity – when a person is overweight or obese, they are exposed to many diseases with one of them being breast cancer
- Early commencement of your period – when one starts their periods before they are twelve, their chances of developing breast cancer increases
- Late-onset of menopause – women that start their menopause at a later age, are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer
- Beginning to have children at a later age – women that have their first baby when over thirty increase their risk of developing breast cancer
- Never having been pregnant – women that have never experienced pregnancy have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to those that have been.
- Hormone therapy post-menopause – when women experience menopause, some take hormone therapy drugs to treat menopausal symptoms. This increases their risk of breast cancer compared to those that do not take any hormonal medicine.
- Alcohol intake – the risk of developing breast cancer is higher in women who drink alcohol compared to those who don’t.
If you feel you have been exposed to any of the above-discussed factors, breast cancer screening is crucial for you. There are various ways one can check for signs or screen for breast cancer. However, the most recommended method is mammography.
This is believed to be the best form of screening doctors use on healthy women. The screening is believed to reduce the death rates from breast cancer because it can detect it early. Similar to other tests, there are risks with mammograms, such as additional testing or anxiety, when the test results show false findings. This is commonly referred to as false-positive results. Equally, mammography can show that cancer doesn’t exist when it does. This is referred to as false-negative results.
For women with more massive breasts, digital mammography is best suited for them. For them, mammography screening known as tomosynthesis is carried out. This kind of testing is 3D and improves the ability to detect small cancers reducing the need to carry a repeat test when one receives a false-positive. Although the method is FDA approved, a lot of research is still ongoing to increase its accuracy further.
Other Methods for Screening Breast Cancer
Although mammography is an ideal way to detect cancer in the breasts, other methods are also used. Breast cancer screening can be performed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. Although these methods are not popular, they have proven to be useful in women that have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women with dense breasts, as well as those that have found lumps in their breasts during routine breast examinations, can use these methods as well.
Unfortunately, ultrasound screening has been controversial because of the many false-positive results. This screening method has often identified women to be potential cancer victims wrongly, causing a lot of anxiety. Because of this, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends those that have higher risk factors for cancer to opt for mammography instead. Cancer screening is recommended to be carried out six months apart, especially for women that have a high chance of developing the disease as earlier discussed.
MRI screening, on the other hand, is more recommended for women that have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. MRI screening is better than ultrasound or mammography in finding small lumps in the breast, especially for those with heavier ones. Unfortunately, MRIs are known to register higher rates of false-positive results. This will mean that the person will be required to undergo more biopsies and surgeries as well as other tests. Additionally, MRIs do not detect small calcium spots known as calcifications, as can be detected using mammography. These calcifications are sometimes a symptom of in situ breast cancer.
Women are encouraged to perform a breast examination on themselves, and when they find anything suspicious, they must consult a doctor to schedule for more advanced screenings. A doctor will either recommend for them to undergo an MRI, mammography, or ultrasound to confirm their findings.
This is another type of cancer that is specific to women. This type of cancer occurs at the cervix cells in the lower uterus, where it connects with the vagina. This cancer is mostly caused by the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is an infection transmitted sexually. The virus is found in various strains in the human body, but the immune system is designed to prevent it from being harmful. However, when the virus survives for a prolonged time, it affects various cervical cells that end up becoming cancer cells.
Screening for cervical cancer is one of the ways one can prevent the risk of developing it as well as being vaccinated against it. Cervical cancer does not have early symptoms making it essential to do periodic screenings even when there are none. However, various signs should make you go for cervical cancer screening in advanced stages of the disease. These include:
- Experiencing bleeding from the vagina after sexual intercourse, menopause or periods
- Experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge that is bloody and watery with a nasty smell
- Experiencing pain during sex or in your pelvic area
Typically, cervical cancer occurs when healthy cells found in the cervix start to mutate. When cells mutate, they grow and multiply uncontrollably, and they refuse to die as they should. They then form an abnormal mass known as a tumor. These cells become cancerous and attack surrounding tissues to spread to the rest of the body.
The cause of cervical cancer is not known, but the HPV virus is known to play a vital role. People found to carry this virus are known to have developed cervical cancer in the long run. Lifestyle and environmental factors have also been associated with cancer in many people.
Cervical cancer comes in two types. The type a person also helps in determining the treatment method. These types are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma – this cervical cancer starts at the flat thin known as squamous cells found on the outer side of the cervix.
- Adenocarcinoma – This cancer starts in the glandular cells that are column-shaped.
Anyone can get cervical cancer, but there are those at a higher risk of developing it. These risk factors include:
- Multiple sexual partners – if you or your sexual partner has numerous other partners, you stand a higher chance of having the HPV virus responsible for causing cervical cancer
- Engaging in sexual activity at an early age – when a person engages in sexual intercourse at an early age, they increase their chance of getting the HPV virus
- Having sexually transmitted diseases – other infections transmitted sexually such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV/AIDS, and syphilis increase the likelihood of having the HPV virus
- A weak immune system – different health conditions can cause a weakness in your immune system. If this is the case, you are at a higher risk of having the HPV virus
- Smoking – squamous cervical cancer is prevalent in women that smoke.
If you are exposed to some of the above risk factors, and even when you are not, you need to get screened for cervical cancer-causing cells. As earlier mentioned, cervical cancer is not detectable in the early stages until it has developed. This makes it essential for all women to get screened at least once a year to prevent the chance of developing the disease.
There are two main types of screening for cervical cancer. These include:
Human Papillomavirus Testing (HPV)
In order to carry out this test, cell samples are scraped from the cervix of a woman. With this sample, the doctors' test to see if any strains of the HPV virus are associated with most cervical cancer cases. Cells from a woman’s vagina can also be collected and tested for the virus as well.
This is one of the most popular methods of screening for cervical cancer. This test is commonly referred to as the pap smear test. It involves getting cell samples from the cervix and having them tested to see if they are cancerous or have signs of cancer. Often, the analysis is carried out at the same time with a bimanual pelvic exam is done. Other times, the test may be carried along with the HPV test above.
Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA)
In order to perform this test, a few tools are required alongside the use of naked eyes. This screening is especially carried out in areas where medical facilities for testing are limited. In carrying out the test, the cervix is applied with white vinegar. Abnormalities are then identified, if any. If the cervix turns white when it comes into contact with vinegar, it will mean the cells are abnormal and can be cancerous.
Aside from the above-discussed types of cancer that are common in women, there are other cancers that women can suffer from, and with early screening, one can get cured or prevent them. These will include:
Colorectal Cancer - This type of cancer affects the colon and can be screened through various ways such as:
- Colonoscopy where a doctor inserts a tube that is lit and is flexible through the rectum to check for cancer signs and polyps
- Sigmoidoscopy – where a tube is inserted into the lower part of the colon to check for cancer or polyps.
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – this involves testing the stool for blood that can be an indication of cancer or polyps
Neck and Head Cancers
As the names suggest, these are cancers found in the neck or head areas. In carrying out the screening, a doctor will look for abnormalities in the throat, nose, or mouth as well as look for lumps on the neck. Going for regular dental check-ups will also identify the early onset of cancer.
Find a Full-Service Women Healthcare Clinic Near Me
Cancer is a dreaded disease among many, and it has also killed many people over the years. Although early screening does not guarantee that one will not have it, however, it is crucial in preventing it. With testing, the patient can have it detected early, and cancer-causing cells can be eliminated from the body. Screening is one of the best ways to prevent and treat cancer. At Gyn LA in Los Angeles, we are equipped with the latest technology in the screening of various cancers that can be detrimental to your health. Call us today at 310-375-8446, and book an appointment to get screened.