Gynecologic Cancer Prevention
While there’s no surefire way to prevent gynecologic cancer, you can take some steps to reduce your risk of developing it:
- Quit smoking to reduce the risk of vaginal cancer.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to reduce the risk of cancer.
- Undergo regular gynecologic exams.
- Get vaccinated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer that are caused by the sexually transmitted HPV infection, including cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. The vaccine protects against specific strains of HPV that are commonly linked to these cancers and can be given starting at age 9. Although typically recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys, it can be given to those ages 13 to 26 who did not receive any shots or who missed doses.
- Know the symptoms (insert link to symptoms) of gynecologic cancers.
- Have a Pap test. Not only can it help find cervical cancer, but it can also help detect cervical pre-cancers or abnormal changes in cervical cells that could eventually become cancer. This is the only screening test available for gynecologic cancer. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should be tested. He or she may recommend getting an HPV test, to look for HPV infection, in addition to a Pap test.
- Limit the number of sexual partners or practice safe sex to reduce the risk of some gynecologic cancers.
If you believe you may be at an increased risk of gynecologic cancer – for example, you have a family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer – speak with your provider about your concerns. Levine Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Program offers an ovarian cancer risk assessment and has a joint program in place with the Clinical Genetics Program that brings together highly qualified physicians, genetic counselors, nurses and support counselors to provide guidance for patients, their families and referring physicians on cancer risk factors and treatment recommendations.