When is the last time you had a pap smear or a mammogram? Have you ever had an HPV test? Do you even know what that is?
Breast cancer awareness month got us talking about breast cancer and the state of women’s health.
Manhatten based Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, recently named by Black Enterprise as one of America’s Leading Physicians, is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Dean for Diversity and Minority Affairs at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She recommends three preventative tests as part of our routine care.
1 – Pap Smear
Once girls turn 21, or become sexually active, they should schedule this quick and painless test, which searches for abnormal cell growth.
2 – HPV Test
Women 30 and over should ask their doctor for an HPV test together with the Pap Smear. Combined, it increases cervical cancer detection rates to almost 100 percent!
If you’ve never even heard of the HPV test, you’re not alone. Many doctors simply haven’t made it part of regular screening. The test can be done using the same sample of cervical cells collected for the Pap Smear, so there is no need for additional discomfort or time. Make it a point to request the HPV test when you schedule your Pap Smear.
Cervical cancer is most common in women who are older than 30, because HPV infections are more likely to be persistent at this stage.
Dr. Hutcherson also recommends the HPV vaccine for her patients when they reach age 13. “Each mother should discuss with her pediatrician. Some girls may need it earlier than 13.”
3 – Mammogram
Beginning at age 40, women should start getting mammograms to search for abnormal cell growth and detect cancerous cells in their earliest stages. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer so they can monitor you properly, and remember to do monthly self examination at home.
There’s been much discussion over the past few years about what age we should begin routine mammogram screening. Dr. Hutcherson says, “I still recommend mammograms yearly at age 40. I have had patients with breast cancer diagnosed in their 40′s by routine mammogram. You don’t need a family history to get breast cancer.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you haven’t scheduled your mammogram yet, this might be the perfect time to take care of all your preventative health care tests.
Affordable Care Act and Preventative Care
Many Americans, even those with health insurance, have been opting out of elective medical services and skipping preventative care due to financial difficulty. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that physician visits decreased more than seven percent from 2009.
Among those who lost jobs in the economic recession, some lost medical insurance all together, putting affordable care out of reach. Others had to settle for high-deductible health plans that act as a cushion against medical emergencies, but force policyholders to avoid seeking care.
Even those whose employers provide medical benefits aren’t immune from the rise in health care costs and saw their own premium contributions and out-of-pocket expenses rise. Too many of us have been skipping important preventative screenings.
As of September 23, 2010, many doctor-recommended life-saving preventative services are covered by health insurance. These reforms will apply to all NEW health plans, but also many existing health plans as they are renewed. It’s worth a call to your insurer to see if your preventative tests will be covered. See: Affordable Care Act