Gynecological Cancer Screening & Diagnostics
Each year, nearly 89,000 women in the US are diagnosed with a gynecological cancer, which is cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. These include cervical, ovarian, uterine (or endometrial), vaginal and vulvar cancers. The symptoms, risk factors, prevention methods and screening options vary for each type of gynecological cancer.
Cervical cancer is the only gynecological cancer commonly screened for when a woman has no symptoms or is not at increased risk for developing the disease. Screening tests, which look for cancer when no symptoms are present, help find disease at an early stage, when it’s most curable and treatment is most effective.
Screening for other gynecological (GYN) cancers is recommended only for those women who have a higher chance of developing the cancers. Women should talk to their primary care or OB/GYN doctor to determine whether they are at increased risk for GYN cancer and what other screening tests — like genetic testing — might be right for them.
See your primary care doctor, gynecologist or OB/GYN for regular Pap tests, HPV tests and pelvic exams. If you need a physician referral, call our HealthLine team at 941-917-7777.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer — cancer of the cervix, or the opening to the uterus — is the least common gynecological cancer and among the most preventable of all cancers. Cervical cancer screening detects changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer.
There are two screening tests used to find cervical precancers and early-stage cancers:
- Pap test: The Pap test, or Pap smear, looks for cancer on the cervix, as well as cell changes that could become cancer (precancers).
- The HPV test: The human papillomavirus (HPV) test detects the human papillomavirus, which can cause these cell changes. In many cases, the HPV test can be done at the same time as a Pap smear, and it can provide helpful information when Pap tests are unclear.
Over the last 40 years, the mortality rate for cervical cancer patients has been cut in half, thanks in large part to the Pap test; these screening tests are also credited for the decrease in cervical cancer diagnoses in the U.S. The Pap smear and the HPV test are the best tools available for preventing cervical cancer.
When cervical cancer is detected, Sarasota Memorial Cancer Institute offers a full range of diagnostic and treatment services, as well as a dedicated care team and surgical team that specialize in treating gynecological cancers. Click here to learn more about this expert team of specialists and our comprehensive gynecological cancer services.
Is Screening Right for You?
All women who have a cervix are at risk for cervical cancer, and that risk increases with age.
Regular screenings can prevent cervical cancer or find it early.
- Women ages 21 and older should have regular Pap smears, including those who have been vaccinated against HPV.
- Women who are 30 and older should also have the HPV test; HPV testing is not recommend for most women under age 30.
- Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
How often you should get a Pap smear and HPV test depends on many factors, including age, health history and whether you have a weakened immune system. Women who have a history of cervical cancer, are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or who were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth may require more frequent screening.
Talk to your healthcare provider to determine how often you should have Pap and HPV tests, and whether the HPV vaccine is right for you.
Sarasota Memorial Cancer Institute is fully accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Sarasota Memorial has maintained continuous Commission on Cancer accreditation since 1988.