Vulvar cancer is a rare type of genital cancer in women. The risk of getting this cancer can be reduced by avoiding certain risk factors and treating precancerous stage known as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) or dysplasia. Here are some tips to prevent vulvar cancer; they do not ensure definite prevention from this dreaded cancer, but can greatly reduce your chances of developing it.
Avoid HPV infection: A major risk factor for vulvar caner is human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. It is a contagious infection, which is often transmitted sexually. It can be transmitted by oral, anal or genital sex. Infection with HPV is common, however, in most people the infection gets cleared from the body on its own; but in some, the infection may persist and become chronic. People with chronic infection, especially with high-risk HPV types are at an increased risk of developing certain cancers including vulvar cancer.
People with risky sexual behavior are at a higher risk of getting infected with a high-risk type of HPV. Measures to prevent sexually transmitted diseases can decrease the risk of HPV infection. Here is a list of measures one can take to prevent HPV infection.
- Have one partner: Live in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected and is in a monogamous relation with you (as this decreases the risk of getting any STD including HPV infection).
- Avoid sex with infected individuals: Avoid sex with a person who has genital warts or any other STD. Most of the sexually transmitted infections are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. It is advisable to know the infection status of your partner as many people with no obvious genital lesion can be infected and therefore, can unknowingly transmit HPV infection.
- Condoms: Condoms are considered one of the best ways to prevent any STD including genital warts and HPV infection. Using condom for every sexual contact can significantly reduce your risk of getting any STD.
Get vaccinated against HPV: Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk of many cancers such as anal, vulvar, vaginal and cervical cancers. Vaccines that can help protect against infection with HPV subtypes 16 and 18 (as well as 6 and 11) are available in the market, today. According to studies, the vaccine Gardasil is effective for prevention of anal and genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11 and anal, vulvar, vaginal and cervical cancers and pre-cancers caused by types 16 and 18. Currently available vaccines are safe and effective for preventing infection with HPV type 16 and 18 in women who have not been exposed to the virus.The efficacy decreases in women who have already been infected with HPV.
Avoid Smoke: Studies have shown that women who smoke are more likely to develop a number of cancers than those who don’t. Smoking women may be vulnerable to cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, kidneys and several other organs. If you don’t smoke, you are at a lower risk of vulvar cancer.
Watch out for pre-cancerous conditions: In many women, vulvar cancer develops slowly from a precancerous condition called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) or dysplasia. It usually takes years for precancerous changes (VIN) to progress to vulvar cancer. The dysplastic changes can be detected through regular gynecologic checkups. If you develop any symptom/s such asvulvar itching, rashes, moles or lumps that persist for more than a few days, consult your health care provider immediately. It may be caused due to vulvar pre-cancer.
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