Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program

About Screenings

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Fact Sheet

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. However, if it is detected while still in its earlier stages, breast cancer can be successfully treated. Routine mammograms and breast exams can detect cancer early and provide women with better treatment options and results.

A mammogram is a low dose X-ray that shows the inside of your breasts. Women 40 years of age and older should have a test every year. Do not wear deodorant, perfume, lotion or powder on the morning of your mammogram. You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and put on a gown, so wear a blouse or sweater that you can take off easily.

During a mammogram, two smooth, flat plastic plates are placed around one of your breasts to flatten your breast tissue. Flattening your breast provides the best exam using the lowest dose X-ray. Two or more X-rays will be taken of each breast. The pressure of the plates on your breasts may cause discomfort. Any discomfort should disappear shortly. If you have menstrual periods, have your mammogram during the week after your period when your breasts are less tender.

The doctor who reads your mammogram will want to compare this test to previous mammograms and you may be asked to bring your X-rays with you. Additional views of your breasts may be needed to look more closely at a certain area of your breast. This additional test is called a diagnostic mammogram.

If your health care provider orders additional tests, such as a breast ultrasound or breast biopsy, ask for information about these tests. Remember, if you have a lump in your breast, a normal mammogram is not enough testing to make sure the lump is not cancer.

When you receive your results or a call to have more testing done, be sure to ask questions if you do not understand your health care provider’s plan for your care.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer Fact Sheet

Cervical cancer also is treatable if detected early. There are often no noticeable symptoms, so it is important that women get screened regularly and have a Pap test. The test can find any abnormal changes that could turn into cancer.

A Pap test is used to examine cells collected from the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus or womb and opens into the vagina or birth canal. This test is performed as part of a pelvic exam using a speculum placed in your vagina while you lie on an exam table. This instrument gently opens the vagina so the cervix can be seen. A sample of cells is taken from in and around the cervix and placed on a slide for later viewing in a lab. Collecting cells from your cervix is not painful.

Women should begin to have yearly Pap tests at 18 years of age or when sexual activity begins. The best time of the month to have a Pap test is between 10 and 20 days after your last period started. If you no longer have periods, the Pap test can be done anytime.

To prepare for your Pap test -

  • Do not have sexual intercourse for 48 hours (two days) before the test.
  • Do not put anything in your vagina for 48 hours (two days) before the test. (for example, tampons, douches, cervical caps, diaphragms, creams or foams)
  • If you are having your period when your test is planned, call your health care provider for advice.

The Pap test results can show infection, inflammation, abnormal cells or cancer. When you receive your results or a call to have more testing done, be sure to ask questions if you do not understand your health care provider’s plan for your care.


535 W. Jefferson St., First Floor, Springfield, IL 62761-0001
217-524-6088, Fax 217-557-3326
Women's Health-Line: Toll-free: 888-522-1282
TTY: 800-547-0466