Skip to main content

Topical Therapy for Vaginal Pre-Cancer

On this page

Topical therapy puts the drug right onto the affected area. This may be done to treat vaginal pre-cancer (vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia or VAIN), but it's not used to treat invasive vaginal cancer.

Two drugs are used most often for topical therapy:

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a chemotherapy drug that can be applied directly to the lining of the vagina. This is repeated weekly for about 10 weeks or given nightly for 1 to 2 weeks. However, this treatment can cause severe vaginal and vulvar irritation. Also, it may not work as well as using a laser or simply removing the area of abnormal cells with surgery.
  • Imiquimod is a cream that can be applied to the area of VAIN. Imiquimod is not a chemotherapy drug. Instead, it acts by boosting the body’s immune response to the area of abnormal tissue. It may be used once a week for 3 to 8 weeks. This treatment has led to improvement of VAIN (the lesions changed from VAIN 2 or 3 to VAIN 1). In about half of women with VAIN 1 or 2, it has caused VAIN to go away.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Gurumurthy M, Cruickshank ME. Management of vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia. J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2012;16(3):306-312.

Kim MK, Lee IH, Lee KH. Clinical outcomes and risk of recurrence among patients with vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia: a comprehensive analysis of 576 cases. J Gynecol Oncol. 2018;29(1): e6.

Last Revised: March 19, 2018

American Cancer Society Emails

Sign up to stay up-to-date with news, valuable information, and ways to get involved with the American Cancer Society.