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What Can I Do if I am at Risk for Vulvar Cancer?

The best things you can do to prevent vulvar cancer are to lower the risks you can control and get regular gynecological exams. In some cases, doctors also recommend doing self-exams. Below are some of the choices you can make to lower your risk of getting vulvar cancer.

Avoid human papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV infection

You can help prevent these infections by not having sex as a preteen or young teen, by having protected sex (using condoms), and by avoiding sex with many people or with people who have had a lot of sexual partners. Remember that condoms provide some protection against HPV, but not complete protection. Even so, if used consistently, they do help prevent the spread of HIV and many other sexually transmitted diseases. You can also talk to your doctor about the vaccines available to help prevent HPV infection and whether one of them might be right for you. 

Two vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV) are available to protect against cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that girls 11 or 12 years old get 3 doses of the HPV vaccine. Older girls and young women who missed a dose of the vaccine can make it up through age 26.

Don’t smoke

Women who smoke are more likely to get vulvar cancer, especially if they have certain types of high-risk HPV.

Have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams

Women who are older than 21 should have a pelvic exam and a Pap test on a regular basis.

Do self-exams

Your doctor may recommend that you do regular self-exams to find any changes in your vulva. You can do this by using a mirror once a month and looking for any red, irritated, dark, or white spots on your vulva. Also look for bumps, ulcers, or moles that are new or have changed. Tell your doctor about anything unusual.

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 6/30/2014
© 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.