Breast and Cervical Cancer

Breast and Cervical Cancer: Prevention is the Best Medicine

Breast and cervical cancer are two of the most common cancers a woman can get.  If detected early, they are almost 100% curable.  The Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) provides screening tests for these cancers as a benefit to you.  Please discuss them with your primary care provider (PCP), and start these screenings as recommended.

Breast Cancer Screening

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast.  It is the best way to detect breast cancer early.  Finding breast cancer early, before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms, can make all the difference.  This can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.  General recommendations are to have a screening mammogram every one to two years beginning at ages 40-50.  Talk to your PCP about your family risks.  Discuss at what age you should start having a mammogram test.

Breast-cancer screening means checking before there are signs or symptoms of the disease.  You can perform self-breast exams, but be sure that you also get regular mammograms.  Early detection is key.

Cervical-Cancer Screening

UPHP recommends women begin to be screened for cervical cancer at age 21.  If you are younger than 21, discuss cervical-cancer screening with your PCP.

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a virus.  This is called the human papillomavirus or HPV.  There are many different types of HPV.  Some types can lead to cervical cancer.  HPV is passed from one person to another during sex.

Two tests are used to screen for cervical cancer:

  • A Pap smear, which looks for abnormal changes in cells in the cervix.  These changes may suggest that cancer may develop in the future.
  • An HPV test, which looks for the type of HPV virus that causes cervical cancer.

Women who have never been screened for cervical cancer should visit their doctor to talk about being screened.  Most women who develop cervical cancer have not been screened at all, have not been screened recently, or did not have proper follow-up after getting abnormal test results.  Not being tested can be your biggest risk.

A Related Cancer-Prevention Note

The HPV vaccine is the best way to help protect young girls (and boys) from the various cancers that HPV can cause.  The ideal is for preteens to have this series of three HPV vaccinations completed by age 12.  This is the only known vaccine that can actually prevent some cancers.  This is future protection for your child.

Page Last Updated: 09/30/2016