For decades women have been advised that screenings can find cancer in early stages, when treatment is generally more successful.
This is still true.
Starting by age 40, most women should have annual mammogram screenings to detect breast cancer. For women 50 to 74 years old who have had no incidence of a positive screening, this usually changes to a mammogram every two years.
Females should have a Pap test by age 21. Between ages 30 and 65, a woman and her doctor should discuss whether she should get a Pap test only, an HPV test only or both. A normal finding on an HPV test often indicates that the woman can wait five years before being tested again.
Women over age 65 should continue seeing their healthcare provider for an annual check-up but if she has had normal Pap test results for several years, this screening is no longer necessary.
If you are a woman between the ages of 40 and 65 and you don’t have insurance coverage for a mammogram and Pap test, you may be eligible for free screenings through the Care for Yourself program. Call Health Navigation at 515-993-3750 or see the Iowa Department of Public Health website.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.