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Your Guide to Women’s Preventive Care

It’s important for adult women to have annual wellness exams after the age of 21. During this visit, your doctor examines your overall health. They’ll also look for early signs of breast and cervical cancer. Since these are preventive care visits, there is no cost when seeing a Preferred provider for both Basic and Standard Option members. For more information, see the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan brochures.

Screening for Cervical Cancer
It’s common to receive a Pap test (also called a Pap smear or pelvic exam) during your visit. Your doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix to test for any abnormal or precancerous cells. You usually need to get tested every 3 to 5 years.

Screening for Breast Cancer
During your visit, your doctor will perform a clinical breast exam. This happens by feeling breast tissue for any lumps or abnormal areas. Lumps can be very difficult to feel on your own, which is why it’s recommended that women over the age of 40 receive regular mammograms. A mammogram uses an X-ray to examine the breast tissue and can detect changes before you can feel them.

Additional Screenings for High-Risk Women
Some women have a higher risk of developing cancer than other women. Your doctor can help determine your risk level and what steps you should take. For example, women who have a family history of breast, cervical or ovarian cancer can be tested for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. BRCA is an abbreviation for the “BReast CAncer” gene, which is an inherited trait. A normally functioning BRCA gene helps prevent cancer by suppressing tumor growth. But a damaged or broken gene can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Currently, about 12% of women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. However, about 72% of women with BRCA1 and about 69% of women with BRCA2 will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. Fortunately, only about 1 in 400 people have a BRCA gene.

Assessing Your Risk
Genetic counseling and evaluation can help determine if you’ve inherited a BRCA mutation. Since being a carrier is relatively uncommon, doctors usually only test people with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. 

For that reason, benefits for preventive BRCA testing are available for members with a family history of certain cancers. If eligible, you must receive genetic counseling and evaluation services before you receive preventive BRCA testing. You must also receive prior approval from us.

If you want to know if you’re a carrier of the BRCA1/2 gene, talk to your doctor about genetic counseling. Eligible candidates will meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the risks, limitations, and benefits of undergoing genetic testing and what to expect afterwards. Positive or negative, knowing your status will help you make better-informed decisions about your health. More information is available in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan brochures.