Vaginal Cancer: Prevention

Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer that starts in the vagina. Some people have a higher risk of this cancer. What can you do to help protect yourself? There's no sure way to prevent vaginal cancer. But there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. 

Limit your risk of getting HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an infection you can get through sex. HPV can be spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also spread through skin-to-skin contact. HPV is a main risk factor for vaginal cancer. To help prevent HPV infection:

  • Practice safe sex. Use condoms when having sex. Limit the number of sex partners you have. Ask partners if they have HPV.

  • Get the HPV vaccine. There is a vaccine to help prevent HPV infection. The vaccine can help prevent vaginal cancer and pre-cancer. It is advised for people ages 9 to 26. Some adults ages 27 to 45 may also need the vaccine. The vaccine may be given as a series of 2 or 3 shots. This depends on your age. Talk with your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine and ask if it's right for you.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is a risk factor for many types of cancer, including vaginal cancer. Talk with your provider for help in quitting. It can be hard to quit smoking. But there are many resources to help you quit. You can find help and information at

Get regular screenings and exams

Have regular pelvic exams and pap tests as advised by your healthcare provider. These tests are used to find cervical cancer. But they may also detect vaginal pre-cancer. This is called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN). When found early, this pre-cancer can be treated before vaginal cancer develops.

The power is in your hands

You can do many things to prevent vaginal cancer. Take good care of yourself and make smart choices. The HPV vaccine, safe sex, regular check-ups, and not smoking can greatly lower your chances of getting vaginal cancer.

© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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