Diagnosing cancer early gives patients a much better outlook for their treatment, which is why routine cancer screenings are so important. Your gynecologist can screen for some types of cancer, and at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates, patients can also learn more about their genetics and risk for developing cancer.
Cancer screening is a normal part of a well-woman’s appointment with your gynecologist. During your visit, your gynecologist can perform a breast exam and Pap smear. These help to test for breast cancer and cervical cancer.
During a breast exam, your gynecologist will feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes and check for skin changes that can indicate breast cancer. You should perform regular self-breast exams at home, too, but a professional exam is recommended.
Pap smears check for cervical cancer by testing for abnormal cervical cells. Your gynecologist may also test for HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Most abnormal Pap smear results are false alarms, so you don’t need to be too concerned. However, your gynecologist may recommend a colposcopy to further check for cancer.
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer can’t be detected through a routine screening at your regular well-woman’s appointment. However, if you have a higher risk for ovarian cancer or symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain, your gynecologist may recommend an ultrasound, bloodwork, or another test.
Certain types of cancer run in families through genetic mutations that can be passed down. These include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, uterine cancer, and more. Patients can choose to have their DNA tested to see if they are at an increased risk for cancer, but determining whether this is necessary starts with a genetic counseling appointment.
During this appointment, you will review your personal and family medical history with one of our board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologists. This helps to determine your risk and whether genetic testing is necessary. If you decide to proceed with testing, there are three possible test results:
- A positive result, means you do have a pathogenic variant indicating an increased risk for cancer.
- A negative result indicates you have no pathogenic variants and no increased risk, o
- An inconclusive result, meaning that some alterations in your genes were detected, but it is unknown whether this puts you at an increased risk for cancer.
Genetic cancer screening involves taking a sample of your blood or saliva to have your DNA evaluated by a lab. These scientists will screen your DNA for mutations in genes that cause an increased risk for certain types of cancer. Results are found within about two weeks on average, and a professional from our team, either a physician or board–certified genetic counselor will review the results with you. Should patients have specific concerns or risks, a board-certified Medical Geneticist, Dr. Tamar Goldwaser, is also available for in-depth genetic consultations with patients and their families. Genetic cancer screening helps patients optimize healthcare planning to catch cancer early should they develop it at some point in their life. Patients who have multiple relatives with the same type of cancer, relatives diagnosed with early-onset cancer, a personal previous cancer diagnosis, or who are Ashkenazi Jewish often benefit from genetic cancer screening.
To schedule an appointment for a well-woman’s visit, genetic counseling, or genetic cancer screening, call Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates at (212) 235-1335 or request your appointment online.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!