Prevention and Screening

The reality is every woman is at risk for developing gynecologic cancer, so it is important to do regular self examinations and screenings to help in the early detection of certain types of gynecologic cancer. In some cases these regular screenings and self-examinations can significantly improve your odds of detecting any areas of concern in the earliest stages, and greatly increase your chances of survival.

Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices also play a significant role in the prevention of cancer, as well as knowing your family history. Family history can be a major factor in prevention and early diagnosis, by helping to determine if you have a gene mutation that could increase your risk.

The good news is Hoag’s team of Gynecologic Cancer Program specialists is here to help you every step of the way.

Screening guidelines

It is important to receive regular screenings to stay informed and maintain your good health for years to come. Following are the recommended examinations for different types of gynecologic cancer:

Pap test

The Pap test is the standard method for healthcare providers to check for changes in cervical cells that may cause concern for cervical cancer. Many precancerous conditions and early vaginal cancers can also be detected through routine Pap tests and pelvic exams. The Pap test involves looking at a sample of cells from the cervix under a microscope to check for abnormalities.

  • Recently, the guidelines for cervical cancer screening changed to recommend screenings less frequently. Following are some general guidelines:
    • Women under age 21 should not be screened.
    • Women ages 21 to 29 should have the Pap test every three years.
    • Women ages 30 to 65 who have negative test results should have a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years (preferred). This is called co-testing.
    • Women 30 years and older who receive a HPV-positive, cytology-negative result should repeat cytology and HPV testing at 12 months.
    • Screening is not recommended for women over age 65 that have had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests in the previous 10 years, with the most recent test in the last 5 years. (Women in this age group who have a history of cervical pre-cancer should continue routine screening for at least 20 years, even if this extends beyond age 65).

HPV vaccine

One of the most significant advances in the fight against cervical cancer is the development of the HPV vaccine. Early vaccination and regular screening, including both Pap and HPV testing, is now considered the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine may also reduce the risk of vulvar cancer.

Following are the general screening guidelines:

  • The HPV vaccine is now routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls.
  • It is also recommended for 11- and 12-year-old boys.
  • The HPV vaccine can be given to individuals ages 9 through 26.

To make a screening appointment, contact your gynecologist or find a doctor now.