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Can I Be Checked for Vaginal Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?

Doctor speaking to woman in exam room

Screening tests check for signs of disease in people who don't have any symptoms. There is no standard screening test for the early detection of vaginal cancer. If you think you are at risk for vaginal cancer, talk with your doctor about screening.

Although there is no standard screening test for vaginal cancer, sometimes doctors notice vaginal changes during screening for cervical cancer. The screening for cervical cancer includes a pelvic exam, a Pap test, and in some women, a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. Here are the screening guidelines for cervical cancer from the American Cancer Society.

  • Get regular Pap tests and pelvic exams, starting at age 21. You should have a Pap test every three years.

  • Beginning at age 30, you should have a Pap test, along with an HPV test, every five years. If you have risk factors such as HIV infection, diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure prior to birth, or a weakened immune system, your doctor may recommend that you follow a different screening schedule. 

  • If you are age 65 or older and are not at high risk, you may choose to stop having cervical cancer screening. Doctors recommend this only if you've had no abnormal results in the last 10 years. If you have a history of cervical cancer, DES exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system, you should talk to your doctor about the best screening schedule for you.

  • If you had a total hysterectomy (removal of your uterus and cervix), you may also choose to stop screening, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or precancer. If you had a hysterectomy without removal of your cervix you should continue to follow the guidelines above.

  • No women of any age should be screened every year by any screening method.

  • Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines.

Online Medical Reviewer: Larson, Kim, APRN, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 9/10/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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