Vaginal Cancer Prevention
Vaginal Cancer Screening
Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re at risk but don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are highest.
Screening may be able to find certain types of vaginal cancer in women without symptoms. You should have a pelvic exam every year. Pap tests are not necessary after age 65 or a hysterectomy that was done for reasons other than treatment of cervical dysplasia (precancer) or cancer.
In addition, MD Anderson recommends testing for HPV (human papilloma virus) for some women over 30 years old. This can be done at the same time as your Pap tests. Read more about MD Anderson's HPV test recommendations.
Vaginal Cancer Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting vaginal cancer is a risk factor. These include:
- DES (diethylstilbestrol): This drug was given between 1940 and 1971 to some pregnant women to help them not have a miscarriage (lose the baby).
- Vaginal adenosis: In some women, especially those whose mothers took DES, the cells in the vagina change from squamous cells to endometrium (or glandular) cells.
- HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Cervical cancer or pre-cancer
- Drinking alcohol in excess
- HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus)
Not everyone with risk factors gets vaginal cancer. However, if you have risk factors, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Why Choose MD Anderson?
- High level of expertise in vaginal cancer
- Innovative vaginal cancer surgery methods; techniques that allow some women to keep the ability to have children, including trachelectomy
- Skilled reconstructive surgeons
- Combined therapies for advanced vaginal cancer
- Range of clinical trials of new treatments for vaginal cancer
Vaginal Cancer Knowledge Center
Vaginal Cancer Prevention
Certain lifestyle choices may lower your chance of getting vaginal cancer. You should:
- Avoid HPV infection
- Postpone sexual activity
- Limit number of sexual partners
- Avoid sex with:
- Men who have not been circumcised
- Partners who have had many sex partners
- Speak to your doctor about HPV vaccination
- Use condoms. They don’t prevent HPV, but they lower the risk.
- Do not smoke. Read more about MD Anderson's smoking cessation clinical trials.
- Have regular checkups and pelvic exams
- Treat any pre-cancerous conditions of the genitals
Research shows that many cancers can be prevented. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.