Advice for All Women

When Should Women Begin Cancer Screening?

Screening for cancers should begin when a woman initiates care with a gynecologist as a young adult. Depending on her family history, her personal health history, and her specific gynecological issues, advice for when to begin screening is individualized at our Austin cancer screening clinic. At Balcones Obstetrics & Gynecology, we follow evidence based guidelines in our advice to the patient. Our purpose is to detect cancers before they are cancers, in what is termed the premalignant stage. This is the hope for future success in cancer treatment: screening for premalignant conditions allows cancers and precancers to be detected at stages where there is the best hope for full treatment and recovery. Dr. Binford takes pride in staying up-to-date academically on the various cancer screenings in Austin as they relate to whole women’s’ health. Our Austin clinic provides screenings and referrals for screenings for all cancers that affect women, not just gynecological cancers. It is through personal discussion with Dr. Binford or our associates that we are able to advise on when to initiate specific cancer screenings in Austin. If you have concerns about your risk of cancer, we encourage you to make an appointment at our Austin cancer screening clinic to discuss them. We will listen, ask careful questions, and advise screenings based on your individual needs.

The Annual Exam: Cancer Screening Starts Here!

The annual exam is a great opportunity for you to discuss any concerns about your cancer risks, and which cancer screenings in Austin are advisable for you. It’s also the appointment that Dr. Binford and her Nurse Practitioners specifically question you about history that may put you at special risk. This questioning about personal habits and health, and family history is how we know which series of Austin cancer screenings to recommend. If your family has a complicated history of cancer, our cancer screening clinic in Austin can help you with your special screening needs. Knowing what Austin cancer screenings are advisable is the first step to excellent health over the years. It is also our opportunity to recommend lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of cancers, such as smoking cessation and healthy weight. Speaking with us about you specifically will be reassuring that you are doing all you can do to maintain your best health.

Breast Cancer

Dr. Binford will question you carefully about your family history of cancer, because so many breast cancers involve an inherited genetic mutation that predisposes to cancer. She advises a practice of monthly breast self exams and annual exams with a doctor or nurse practitioner after age 25. When to begin mammograms (an X-ray of the breast that checks for breast cancer) is based on many factors, and no single recommendation applies. This is not one size fits all! Early detection of breast cancer through a mammogram allows early treatment and a better chance of cure. We have made huge advances in successful treatment of breast cancer in the past decade, due to individualizing screening recommendations. Women should speak with a doctor about how often to receive a mammogram or other breast screenings, such as ultrasound, breast tomography or MRI. Speak to Dr. Binford at your annual exam if you have new family history, or you can just wait for her or her Nurse Practitioners to ask you! It’s part of our checklist for every annual exam, and something we take very seriously.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect. It has few symptoms until later in the disease, and even then the symptoms are often subtle. There is currently no reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer in women, and it’s an area of intense medical research. The best advice currently is to have an annual pelvic exam where the ovaries are palpated for enlargement, and family history is discussed. Like breast cancer, ovarian cancer is often genetically based. Special screening such as genetic mutation testing for the BRCA mutation may also be advised. Sometimes a transvaginal ultrasound, or a blood test can help detect if the risk justifies further evaluation. We at Balcones OB/GYN hope that soon the research pays off, and that a more specific screen is available in the near future. We can advise on new progress in research at your annual exam, and offer new screening as soon as available.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer used to be the biggest gynecological cancer killer, but we’ve made incredible strides at prevention since the pap smear was developed in the 1950s. Today, among women who have access to health care, and who follow screening recommendations, cervical cancer is unusual. We instead diagnose the first stages of cervical abnormality, a condition called cervical dysplasia.

All cervical cancer starts as cervical dysplasia. Cervical dysplasia is easily treatable. The first step to identify dysplasia is the Pap test. This involves a doctor or nurse practitioner swabbing the cervix with a small brush to collect cells. These cells are analyzed under a microscope. If the results are suspicious, further testing is advised.

HPV Testing

If the initial Pap is abnormal, a test for Human Papilloma Virus DNA is performed. HPV is the virus that causes cervical cells to become dysplasia. If left untreated, dysplasia can progress to cervical cancer. So the HPV DNA test is an important tool to help differentiate who is at risk for cervical cancer. Sometimes the HPV test may be used by itself as screening. Screening recommendations for HPV testing vary depending on personal factors. Discuss any concerns you have about HPV with Dr. Binford or her associates at your annual exam.

Colposcopy

If the Pap and HPV are suspicious for cervical dysplasia, then a procedure called a colposcopy is performed in our Austin cancer screening clinic. Using a strong light and magnifying lens, small cervical skin samples are taken through a process called biopsies.These are analyzed in the Pathologist’s lab under a microscope to see if cervical dysplasia has developed. Dr. Binford performs the colposcopy, and then meets with you again at a separate appointment to discuss the results, and what specific treatment plan is recommended.

Uterine, Fallopian Tube, Vaginal, Vulvar Cancer

Though there are no specific screenings for the above cancers, if there are symptoms and clinical findings discovered at the annual exam that are suspicious, we may advise other testing.

Symptoms you should report to Dr Binford that are suspicious for cancer and should be evaluated:

  • irregular or heavy vaginal bleeding
  • vaginal bleeding after sex
  • vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • a skin wart or sore on the vulva, or inside the vagina
  • increasing abdominal girth (waist size)
  • change in bowel habits
  • unexplained weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal or pelvic pain

Contact Us Today!

Contact us today at 512-452-8888 to schedule an appointment, or to learn more about the services that we provide. We will be pleased assist you in your Austin cancer screening needs.