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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | January 29th, 2017


    A screening test is only good when you get it done. It is used to catch a problem before the problem becomes serious. When it comes to health care disparity, there are two reasons why people of color, especially black women do not fare well when it comes to cancer – they are not getting their screening test and when the test comes back abnormal, there is no follow up.

    A screening test is not a substitute for listening to your body. If for example, you feel a lump in your breast and you just had a normal mammogram, this does not mean you do not get the lump checked out. A screening test is not 100 percent perfect. It may miss a problem. If you have abnormal symptoms, like a breast lump, you must get it checked out.

    Screening tests are used for people who are at average risk of getting a disease and sometimes we have to look at family history, personal history and ethnicity. For example, the average person is told that a colonoscopy is to start at age 50, however if you are black, you should start at age 45. If you have a strong family history, you should start 10 years earlier than the age of the relative that was diagnosed if the relative was diagnosed at an age less than 50.

    Family history is really important when it comes to breast, colon or ovarian cancer. Please talk with your doctor about additional tests that you might need. If you want to know the significance of your family history, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a genetic counselor.

    The most common cancer screening tests that are recommended by the gynecologist are cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. Unfortunately, we do not have screening test for uterine (endometrial) or ovarian cancer. However for those two cancers, listening to your body is especially helpful.



    The pap smear is the screening test for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is largely preventable. I was extremely disturbed with an article that came out last Monday that stated that the rate at which black American women are dying from cervical cancer is comparable to that of women in many poor developing nation. The reasons include unequal access to screening, not following up when the results are positive and not getting the proper treatment.

    January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and here is the link to a fact sheet. If you cannot remember when you last had a pap smear or if you are over 21 years old and have never had a pap smear, it is time to get it. Do not let lack of insurance prevent you from getting a pap smear. Click here for information on how to get a pap smear free or at low cost.

    We know that human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for 99% of cervical cancer. If you are under 26 years old, make sure that you get your HPV vaccine.

    Let us change the stats for all women. Let us prevent cervical cancer.



    The mammogram is the screening test for breast cancer. If you are 40 years or older, you should have had a mammogram. The most common reason, I hear why women do not get a mammogram is because it hurts. Getting breast cancer hurts more. We get the mammogram to catch the disease earlier so that treatment can be a cure. If you do get the mammogram, please follow up with the results. If you need additional testing, get it. Do not run away from the results.

    A mammogram should not prevent you from looking at your breasts. Be familiar with your body, if you notice something unusual regardless of your age, talk with your physician.  You might need more than a mammogram; you might be scheduled for breast ultrasound.

    Free or reduced cause mammogram – click here.



    Colonoscopy is the preferred screening test for colon cancer. For most people, screening begins at age 50, however if you are Black, the recommended age is 45. I had my mine done September of 2015. Here is the link through my journey.



    Unfortunately, there are no screening tests for endometrial cancer. We rely on you as the patient. If you have any abnormal bleeding, you need to inform your physician so that we can perform tests to make sure that you do not have cancer. Below are examples of what would be considered abnormal:

    • If you are postmenopausal (you have gone a full year without bleeding) and you have any bleeding, even a little bit of spotting, you need to see a doctor.
    • If you are bleeding more than 8 days, you need to see a doctor
    • If your bleeding is coming less than 21 days – from the first day of one period to the first day of another period, you need to see a doctor.



    Unfortunately, we do not have any screening test for ovarian cancer yet. An important risk factor is family history. This is where it is important to listen to your body. The symptoms of ovarian cancer often mimic other problems. If you notice bloating, feeling full quickly after eating, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, you should talk with your physician.


    If you have learned something new with Gynecology 110: Cancer screening, please forward this information to at least one person so that they can learn.

    5 Responses to “GYNECOLOGY 110: CANCER SCREENING”

    1. Chinwe Okpalaoka says:

      I Am sharing with my daughters. Thanks!

    2. Bea Oliver says:

      Thanks for sharing…..Very informative!!!! Will definitely share with my sisters and female family members.

    Leave a Reply

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