Regular screenings can help identify health problems early, which is when they are more easily treated. Here is some information regarding screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer and osteoporosis. These screenings are routinely covered by insurance when performed in the recommended situations.
Get tested for cervical cancer
All women over 21 years old—and any sexually active woman—should receive a cervical cancer screening such as a Pap smear. The Pap smear test is done during a pelvic exam. A doctor uses a device called a speculum to widen the opening of the vagina so that the cervix—the lower, narrow end of the uterus—can be examined. A plastic spatula and small brush are used to collect cells from the cervix. After the cells are taken, they are placed into a solution and sent to a lab for testing. The Pap smear also tests for human papillomavirus (HPV).
Cervical cancer is caused by some strains of a sexually transmitted virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV). It can take many years for an HPV infection to transform into cervical cancer, which doesn’t lead to symptoms until its advanced stages. A vaccine, known as Gardasil, is available to prevent infection with the HPV strains that cause most cervical cancers. It is currently recommended for all non-pregnant women nine through 26 years of age. The vaccine works best in girls and young women who have not yet had sex.
OB/GYN practitioners and some adult medicine providers perform Pap smears. Most Pap smears at the Riverbend Medical Group are performed through the OB/GYN departments in our Chicopee, Springfield and Agawam locations.
Get tested for breast cancer
About one out of every eight women in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. In fact, for women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer other than lung cancer. Mammograms are the best approach for early detection of breast cancer. They are a series of X-ray pictures of the breast that allow doctors to look for early signs of breast cancer (sometimes up to three years before a lump can be felt).
During the mammogram, one breast is placed on a plate. Another plate presses down on the breast from above. The plates hold the breast still during the X-ray. These steps are repeated to get a view of the other breast. The plates are then turned to get side views of each breast.
Most women should have their first mammogram at age 40 with subsequent exams every year. If you have any symptoms, such as a lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding breast tissue, or if breast cancer runs in your family, talk with your healthcare provider. He or she may recommend that you have mammograms earlier or more often than other women.
A technologist performs mammograms. A radiologist interprets the study and sends a report to your provider. Here at RiverBend Medical Group, we perform mammography at our Chicopee and Springfield locations.
Get tested for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," most commonly affects older women. The condition, which is generally brought on by estrogen deficiency, causes bones to become fragile. If not detected or left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks, typically in the hip, spine, or wrist. A hip fracture almost always requires major surgery. It can also greatly impair a person's ability to walk or can lead to permanent disability. Spinal fractures can cause severe back pain and deformity.
Women aged 65 and older are encouraged to receive bone density tests every two years. The best screening for osteoporosis is a quick, painless and non-invasive test called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). A DEXA test is used to:
- Detect low bone density before a person breaks a bone
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis when a person has already broken a bone
- Determine whether a person’s bone density is increasing, decreasing or remaining stable
If you are a RiverBend Medical Group patient and feel that you may be due for any of these screenings, please contact your Primary Care Provider (PCP) or your OB/GYN.