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Find out why there is no national screening programme for vaginal cancer.

What is screening?

Screening means testing people for early stages of a disease. This is before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • need to be reliable at picking up cancers
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part
  • must be something that people are willing to do

Screening tests are not perfect and have some risks. The screening programme should also be good value for money for the NHS.

Screening programme

There is no general screening programme for vaginal cancer because it’s a very rare condition.

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 pre cancerous conditions such as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN). Treatment for VAIN prevents vaginal cancer from developing.

Some doctors recommend that you look at the entrance of your vagina regularly to check for any changes to the skin. Checks 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 notice any changes, you need to see your GP.