Routine screening exams are an important part of managing your health. Preventive health screenings for women are used to screen for diseases, discuss lifestyle habits, and assess risk for future problems.
The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) recommends Pap tests for women and transgender individuals between the ages of 25 and 69. Cervical cancer screenings should be performed every three years.
Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should speak with their healthcare provider about when to start and how often to get mammograms. The PHSA recommends women between the ages of 50 and 74 get a mammogram every two years.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Approximately 200 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in BC each year, according to the Public Health Association of BC. Cervical cancer can often be prevented by receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and undergoing routine Pap tests to look for precancers and treat them before the cancer has a chance to spread.
Cervical cancer screenings are used to detect precancerous changes, as well as early cancers. The ultimate goal of these screenings is to reduce the number of people who develop and die from this cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 95 percent of cervical cancer cases are due to the human papillomavirus.
The most common tests used to screen for cervical cancer include a Pap test and an HPV test. Pap tests look for changes that develop in the cells of the cervix. Certain types of cell changes can result in cancer. HPV tests look for high-risk viruses known to cause cervical cancer.
The result of a Pap test may come back as normal, abnormal, or unclear. With a normal result, you can follow the regular schedule for your next screening. Abnormal results mean that you have some changes on your cervix but does not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer. An unclear test result means that there were not enough cells to test and that you may need to be retested.
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in BC women, accounting for 28 percent of all cancer diagnoses for BC women, according to the BC Cancer Registry. Screenings are used to look for breast cancer before you develop any signs or symptoms. Breast cancer screening plays a key role in maintaining good health by helping to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage when the chances of survival are highest.
The two most common types of screening tests used to detect breast cancer include mammograms and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts and is considered the best way to find breast cancer in women of screening age.
Breast MRIs use radio waves and magnets to take pictures of the breasts. A breast MRI is most often recommended for women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer. They are generally not used for women at average risk as breast MRIs can give an abnormal result even when there is no cancer present.
The possible findings following a mammogram may show no signs of breast cancer, the presence of dense breast tissue, a benign (non-cancerous) condition, or an abnormal finding that may require follow-up testing to rule out a cancer diagnosis. For example, calcifications may appear as small, bright white spots on the imaging, resulting in an abnormal finding.
Vitalia Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine encourages women to take their health into their own hands. At Vitalia Health care, our team of dedicated Naturopathic Doctors focuses on addressing your unique health needs. Book an appointment online or contact us at 604-566-9355.
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND