UPMC Cancer Center is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of women afflicted with cancer, specifically breast cancer and gynecologic cancer. UPMC is recognized as a leading health system for cancer care in the United States.
About one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it's found and treated early.
Screening is one of the most important things that you can do to find cancer early. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your survival rate. You do not need a doctor’s referral to schedule a screening. Breast cancer screening is preventive care, so there is no cost to you.
The most common type of breast cancer screening is called a mammogram. This is an x-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms usually involve two or more x-ray images of each breast. These images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Mammograms can also find tiny deposits of calcium that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Where to have your mammogram
If you are a UPMC Health Plan member, please feel free to call a Health Care Concierge for help in scheduling your mammogram. You can get your screening done at a number of locations, including:
- Radiology and imaging centers.
- Mammography clinics.
- Certain doctors’ offices.
- Hospital radiology departments.
How to prepare for the screening
- Before the mammogram, the provider will ask you to change into a gown. Therefore, it’s a good idea to wear a shirt or top you can remove easily.
- Avoid using deodorants, perfumes, powders, or lotions on your breasts and underarm areas on the day of the exam. The ingredients in these products can show up on a mammogram and make it harder to read.
- During the exam, each breast is placed between two plates and an x-ray image is made. Normally, two views of each breast are taken: one with the x-ray beam aimed from top to bottom, and the other from side to side. The entire process takes about 20 minutes.
- Sometimes the pressure you feel can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few seconds. If you have concerns about this, check with your primary care provider for ways to help ease your anxiety or discomfort.
- Finally, be sure to tell the person who is administering the screening if you have any concerns or if you feel discomfort during the exam.
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early — the Pap test and the HPV test. Both are simple, relatively quick procedures. And both can drastically lower a woman's risk for getting cervical cancer.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, a common, sexually transmitted infection. That's why it's so important to get tested. Women 26 years of age and under should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against HPV.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. You cannot see HPV. Most people who become infected with HPV do not know they have it. The HPV vaccine is for girls and women ages 9 through 26.
Who should get screened?
- Women age 21 to 65 should get a Pap test every three years.
- Women age 30 to 65 who want to lengthen the time between screenings can also get a combination screening (Pap test and HPV test) every five years.
You should not receive the HPV vaccine if you:
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- Are allergic to any if the ingredients in the vaccine.
- Have an allergic reaction after getting a dose of the vaccine.