You may feel awkward discussing intimate details with your GP, and any fears about cancer. But all doctors agree that prevention is the best way to safeguard your health.
So if you have a health concern, or want peace of mind though health screening, then the expert gynaecology team at Twenty-Five Harley Street are on hand to offer a host of tests for women. A combination of tests can be used to assess your risk of disease, help with a diagnosis, monitor treatment and allay fears of cancer returning.
To get started, you can book in for a health screening with a private GP who will give you a thorough consultation to identify any major health risks, using a holistic approach to look at your current health, family history and lifestyle. They will then advise you of any relevant blood tests and scans.
A smear test, or cervical screening, is a simple method of detecting abnormal cells that might lead to cervical cancer. It should be carried out every three years, or more frequently if you have concerns. A swab is taken of cells from the cervix, which is the entrance of the womb from the vagina.
Any abnormal cells usually go away on their own, but in some cases they may need to be removed.
A colposcopy is where a doctor takes a closer look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. It’s often done if abnormal cells are found in a smear test.
A colposcopy can confirm whether cells in your cervix are abnormal and determine whether you need treatment to remove them.
A doctor uses a microscope with a light on it to look at your cervix, and if any treatment is needed it can usually be carried out at the same time.
A colposcopy can also be used to find out the cause of problems like unusual bleeding, such as after sex.
The whole procedure takes about 15-20 minutes and you can go home the same day.
Transvaginal ultrasound scan (TVUS)
Imaging may be used to explore, and identify, lumps and cysts or pinpoint any other abnormalities in the vaginal tract, neck of the womb and ovaries. A transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) uses sound waves to identify masses.
It’s vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get changes examined by a doctor. If further investigation is needed, you can be referred for a mammogram where X-rays are used to identify any suspicious breast lesions.
Worried you’ve inherited cancer genes?
Breast cancer DNA predictor
There are certain genes that scientists have identified as putting you at more risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Thanks to the advancements in technology, a type of DNA screening, known as Next Generation Sequencing (ngs), can be used in a simple blood test to see if you’re a carrier. Approximately 5-10% of breast, and 10-15% of ovarian cancer cases are believed to be inheritable, and a majority of cases are caused by mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Blood tests to help diagnose cancer
There are certain proteins and hormones that the body makes if cancer cells are present, known as ‘tumour markers or biomarkers’. Blood tests can be used to help diagnose a number of cancers, and also to monitor treatment.
Blood tests for breast cancer
CA 15-3 is a protein that is a normal product of your breast tissue, however, your levels of CA 15-3 may increase as the number of cancer cells increase.
The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test can be used to measure the amount of this protein that may appear in the blood if someone has breast cancer. CEA is usually produced during the development of a foetus in the womb, and is not normally present in the blood of healthy adults.
Blood test for ovarian cancer
CA-125 (cancer antigen-125) is a type of protein found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. If you have a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you doctor may recommend routine CA-125 screenings as a preventive measure.
Some women who have been successfully treated for ovarian cancer may opt to have regular CA-125 screenings.