4 Health Decisions That Really Matter

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4 Health Decisions That Really Matter

4. Choosing the right tests
Pap smears and HPV testing. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix that may be precancerous, and if those cells are removed or destroyed, it will prevent their progression to cancer. If your Pap results come back abnormal, you should get retested or take a DNA test that detects the presence of 13 strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Keep in mind that even if you do have HPV, your chances of developing cervical cancer are less than 1 percent. In the majority of cases, HPV infections clear up on their own, especially in young women.

Also be aware of the new Pap smear guidelines: If you're 30 or older and have had three normal Pap smears for three years in a row, ask your doctor whether you can get tested every two or three years. This is safe because cervical cancer is so slow-growing, says Saslow. If you're under 30, however, get a Pap every year. Along with each Pap, you also have the option of getting an HPV DNA test.

It's still important for all women to see a gynecologist annually for preventive care, which may include breast and pelvic exams and tests.

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