Don’t delay – schedule your missed mammogram or Pap test today

GEHA | May 3, 2021

well-being health and wellness women's health
Cancer didn’t take any time off for the pandemic, making regular screenings even more important.

Breast cancer and cervical cancer are some of the most serious health risks women can face. While many women postponed getting a mammogram or Pap test during the peak of the pandemic last year, the risk of getting cancer did not disappear.

Fortunately, the National Cancer Institute says it is now safe to come in for a preventive screening. These screenings can detect cancer early, increasing the chance of a positive outcome.

According to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have a mammogram every other year. Women younger than 50 who place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms may choose to begin biennial screening between the ages of 40 and 49 years, but this should be an individual choice.

Talk with your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. This may mean you may need to have mammograms earlier or more often. Some factors that increase the risk for breast cancer include drinking two or three alcoholic beverages a day, being obese, smoking heavily and not getting regular physical activity. The best ways to lower your risk are to get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcoholic drinks and breastfeed your children, if possible.

Cervical cancer may be detected in two ways. A Pap smear, or Pap test, searches for precancerous cells the lower part of the uterus. An HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer.

Regular, routine screenings are the key to catching these cancers early. Here are the screening guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:

  • All women should begin cervical cancer testing at age 21.
  • Women between age 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. HPV testing should not be used for screening for women in this age group unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Beginning at age 30, women should receive a Pap test combined with an HPV test every five years – as long as the test results are normal. This should continue until age 65.

GEHA covers preventive health screenings at 100% for in-network providers.

Finally, here are some tips to have a safe trip to the doctor’s office.

 


Sources:
“For Cancer Screening, COVID-19 Pandemic Creates Obstacles, Opportunities.” cancer.gov, National Cancer Institute, 10 March, 2021.
“No Need to Quarantine Screening Mammograms.” ewbc.com, Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, 8 February, 2021.
“What Should I Know About Screening?” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 January 2021.
“Breast Cancer Awareness.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 September 2020.
“What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, 14 September 2020.