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Three preventive care exams that every woman should get

Written by Diane Archer

Cancer rates are falling and fewer people are dying of cancer. To help detect cancer early, it’s important for women to get three cancer screenings regularly. And, because older adults are more likely to get cancer than younger adults, older women should continue getting screenings throughout their lives. Medicare and health insurers cover three preventive care exams that every woman should get: Pap smears, pelvic exams and physical breast exams.

Each of these exams can detect different types of cancer. Early diagnosis is important because it increases the chance that treatments will work. Medicare covers the full cost of these tests performed together every two years for women at low risk for vaginal or cervical cancer. Health insurers also cover these tests in full.  The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover an annual well-woman preventive care visit and any additional needed visits in order for adult women to obtain recommended preventive services. 

  • Pap smears are important for detecting cervical and vaginal cancer in their early stages. Pap smears can also reveal other genital problems, fibroids and sexually transmitted diseases. For this test, the medical professional scrapes cells from the cervix and vagina.
  • Pelvic exams help detect fibroids and ovarian cancer. The doctor checks the uterus, ovaries, vagina and rectum for changes in shape or size.
  • Clinical breast exams detect the possibility of breast cancer. For this procedure, the medical professional checks the breasts and underarms for lumps which can be a sign of breast cancer.

For more information, visit Medicare Interactive.

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