6 Cancer Screening Tests for Women

Screening tests are a vital part of your healthcare. They can often catch cancer in its earliest stages, long before any actual symptoms may be noticed.

There are particular cancer screening tests that are important for women. Each is highly effective and recommended for all females, although some tests are only performed at certain ages. Learn what you should get, and when you should get it, so you can take a more active role in your healthcare.

Pap Smear for Cervical Cancer

Doctor obtaining a cervical smear
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A Pap smear is a highly effective test that screens for cervical cancer in women. The test involves the collecting of cells from the cervix to be examined under a microscope. It is not a diagnostic test, however. That means that if any abnormalities are discovered, more testing will be needed to make a formal diagnosis.

Pelvic Exam for Gynecologic Cancers

A regular pelvic exam is necessary for all women. A pelvic exam is one of the first steps in diagnosing several conditions such as gynecologic cancers and sexually transmitted diseases. How often a woman needs a pelvic exam varies depending on her risk factors for certain conditions and previous exam findings. A pelvic exam is often accompanied by the Pap smear.

Mammogram for Breast Cancer

Women who are over 40 or at high risk for developing breast cancer need to have a regular mammogram. A screening mammogram is able to detect breast abnormalities that could signal breast cancer. Aside from regular mammograms, women of all ages should perform monthly breast self-exams to check for abnormalities.

Colonoscopy or Other Recommended Colon Cancer Screening Test

Several tests are available to screen for colon cancer. Your healthcare provider will recommend a colon cancer screening test based on your colon cancer risk factors, age, and general health. Common examples of colon cancer screening tests include colonoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.

Colon cancer screening normally begins for men and women who are over 50. However, those who are at an increased risk for the disease may begin screening earlier.

Clinical Skin Exam for Skin Cancer

You should check your skin for abnormalities every month at home. Each year, however, you should have a clinical skin exam. During a clinical skin exam, a healthcare provider visually examines the skin to look for any new developments or changes to existing moles or spots. Remember, if you find anything abnormal, report it to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Do not wait for your yearly exam.

Oral Exam for Oral Cancer

A yearly oral exam is not only necessary to prevent and detect dental problems, but also to screen for oral cancer. Before the exam, the dentist may ask if you smoke, chew tobacco or drink alcohol. It is important to let your dentist know if you have these habits so he or she can determine your risk of developing oral cancer. During an oral exam, the healthcare provider will visually exam your mouth and gums, checking for oral cancer symptoms.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. When cervical screening test results are abnormal.

  2. Planned Parenthood. What is a pelvic exam?.

  3. Arleo EK, Hendrick RE, Helvie MA, Sickles EA. Comparison of recommendations for screening mammography using CISNET models. Cancer. 2017;123(19):3673-3680. doi:10.1002/cncr.30842

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What can I do to reduce my risk of colorectal cancer?.

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.