Can I Get Checked for Vulvar Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?

Doctor and patient talking
Ask your doctor how often you should have a Pap test, HPV test, and pelvic exam. These tests can help spot certain vulvar, vaginal, and cervical cancers.

Screening tests check for signs of disease in people who don't have any symptoms. Screening for vulvar cancer can catch changes early. That's when doctors can treat them more successfully.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women have regular checkups to help spot certain gynecologic cancers. Doctors examine the vulva when you have these checkups, which also include a pelvic exam and Pap test, and maybe an HPV test. Here are the general recommendations for how often you should have Pap tests, HPV tests, and pelvic exams to screen for gynecological cancers if you are at average risk.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • All women should have Pap tests starting at age 21.

  • Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years.

  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called "co-testing") every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also acceptable to continue to have Pap tests alone every 3 years.

  • Women over age 65 who have had regular screening with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Once screening is stopped, it should not be started again. 

  • A woman who has had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be screened.

  • A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.

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