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Dr. Deborah Glupczynski

As originally published in the IE Community News on Monday, February 26, 2024.

By Dr. Deborah Glupczynski

Tax forms, check. Car repairs, check. Prep for kids’ school activities, check. Make reservations for Valentine’s Day, check. Schedule your breast exam or cervical cancer screening exam…wait, what?

If that last item wasn’t on your to-do list for this month, you’re not alone. It’s understandable that regular cancer screenings can fall by the wayside over the course of our busy lives. Some of us aren’t fully back to feeling “normal” in our routines post-pandemic, and that’s OK. 

But it’s so important to get back on track with these routine but lifesaving screening exams, even if you didn’t have in person visits during the pandemic. In particular, you should prioritize getting regularly checked for breast and cervical cancer, two of the most common cancers affecting people in the U.S.

As scary as this sounds, it’s important to remember that screening exams can find precancerous and cancerous changes early, when treatment will be most effective, so ask your health care provider if you are due for any screening exams. Because February is National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month, we thought now would be a great time to review everything you need to know about breast and cervical cancer screening. Read on! 

How to Get Screened for Breast Cancer

First, call your provider and schedule an annual Well-Person Checkup–if you have health insurance, it should be no cost! During this visit, your provider may ask you if you had any concerns about your breasts. If you are over 25, you may be offered a clinical breast exam every 1-3 years. If you are over 40, your provider will recommend a referral for a mammogram, which is a special kind of x-ray exam of the breasts. If you are under 40 but have a family history of breast cancer, your provider may ask you additional questions to determine if you need any additional referrals or exams.

How to Get Screened for Cervical Cancer 

Screening for cervical cancer (also called a “Pap smear”) is part of a gynecologic exam, which involves placing a speculum in the vagina so the cervix can be seen, and then using a soft brush and plastic swab to gently collect cells from the cervix. The cells are then sent to the lab to be looked at under a microscope. Testing for human papilloma virus (HPV), a very common virus that causes changes to the cells of the cervix, is done at the same time. Screening for cervical cancer should start when you are 25, and then be done every five years, depending on your test results.

It is important to know that a Pap smear may not be performed every time you have a gynecologic exam, so you’ll need to remember when your last one was performed in order to get timely screening. If you go to an urgent care for an infection, for example, they may or may not perform one, depending on what you are there for. 

It can be intimidating to make room in our busy lives to go in for routine preventative cancer screening. Cancer screening exams can feel scary, and it can feel easier to avoid them. Thankfully, screening exams for breast and cervical cancer are available from many healthcare providers, including the caring and compassionate team at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. These medical services are available at all of our locations to any person who walks through our doors, regardless of their insurance, immigration status, or ability to pay. 

Take steps to protect your health today by scheduling your regular preventative cancer screenings. Your loved ones will thank you for it! 



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