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What should DES-exposed mothers do?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

DES-exposed mothers should inform their doctor of their exposure. It is important that the physician performs a thorough examination: 

  • Pelvic examination--A physical examination of the reproductive organs and the rectum.
  • Palpation--As part of a pelvic examination to detect presence of abnormal growth.
  • Pap test--A routine cervical Pap test must be supplemented with a special Pap test of the vagina called a "four-quadrant" Pap test.
  • Iodine staining of the cervix and vagina to detect adenosis (a noncancerous but abnormal growth of glandular tissue) or other abnormal tissue.
  • Colposcopy--In colposcopy, a magnifying instrument is used to view the vagina and cervix to check for abnormal tissue.
  • Biopsy--Small samples are examined under a microscope to see whether cancer cells are present.
  • Breast examinations--a routine screening.

A woman who took DES while pregnant (or suspects she may have taken it) should inform her doctor. She should try to learn the dosage, when the medication was started, and how it was used. She also should inform her children who were exposed before birth so that this information can be included in their medical records. DES-exposed mothers should have regular breast cancer screenings and yearly medical checkups that include a pelvic examination and a Pap test.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.