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Screening for vaginal cancer

Women discussing vaginal cancer

This page is about vaginal cancer screening.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Screening for vaginal cancer

Screening means testing seemingly healthy people, who have no symptoms, for early stage cancer. Before they can screen for any type of cancer, doctors must have an accurate test to use. There is no screening programme for vaginal cancer as such. But when you have a cervical screening test, the doctor or nurse does a routine examination of your vagina at the same time. They can pick up precancerous conditions such as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) during this examination. If you have treatment for VAIN, this prevents vaginal cancer from developing.

Some doctors recommend that you look at the entrance to your own vagina regularly to check for any changes. Using a mirror, you can look for areas that are red, irritated, white, or darkly coloured. You should be able to see any growths, nodules, bumps or sores (ulcers). If you do notice any changes like this, you need to see your doctor.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about vaginal cancer section.

 

 

What screening is

Screening means testing seemingly healthy people, who have no symptoms, for early stage cancer.

Before they can screen for any type of cancer, doctors must have an accurate test to use. The test must be reliable in picking up cancers that are there. And it must not give false positive results. A false positive result means that a test makes it look as though a cancer could be present when it isn't. We usually only screen for illnesses that affect large numbers of people. Or screening may sometimes be used for groups of people who are known to be at high risk of getting a particular disease or condition.

 

Why we don't screen for vaginal cancer

There is no screening programme for vaginal cancer because it is a very rare condition. But when you have a cervical screening test, the doctor or nurse does a routine examination of your vagina at the same time. They can pick up precancerous conditions such as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) during this examination. If you have treatment for VAIN, this prevents vaginal cancer from developing.

Some doctors recommend that you look at the entrance to your own vagina regularly to check for any changes to the skin. Checks like this may help women to pick up cancer at an early stage. By using a mirror, you can look for areas that are red, irritated, white or darkly coloured. You should be able to see any growths, nodules, bumps or sores (ulcers). If you do notice any changes like this, you need to see your GP.

You can read more about the cervical screening test, and about vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) at these links. 

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Updated: 10 September 2015