5 things women should know about cancer screening

When it comes to cancer screenings, some women might think, “Well, I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need them.” But that’s actually when you should get them. Cancer screenings should only be done when you display no symptoms. Otherwise, it’s not a screening test anymore; it’s a diagnostic test. That’s why you shouldn’t wait until you have a lump in your breast or blood in your stool. Because by the time you’re actually showing symptoms, the cancer might not be in its earliest, most treatable stages anymore. Read on to find out which tests you need and how frequently you should get them, and get answers to other screening questions I often hear at MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center. What screenings do I need, and when should I start getting them? For the average-risk woman (as opposed to those at high risk of developing cancer), we recommend: Starting at age 21: A Pap test to check for cervical cancer. If the results are normal, you should be tested every three years. Pap tests are no longer recommended every year for average-risk women of any age. Starting at age 30: If you get a Pap test and an HPV test at the same time, and both are negative, you can move to an every-five-year testing schedule. If you only get the Pap test, you should stay on the three-year schedule. Starting at age 40: A yearly breast exam and mammogram to check for breast cancer. Starting at age 50: A colonoscopy every 10 years, a virtual colonoscopy every five years, a Cologuard test every three years or a fecal test...