The vagina is the muscular tube, which connects the uterus with the outer genitals. Vaginal cancer mostly occurs in cells that form the lining of the vagina, often called the birth canal. This is a rare disease and commonly seen in post-menopausal women.
- Human paipilloma virus
- If you have been exposed to DES while you were still in your mothers womb
- History of cervical or vulvar cancer
Early stage vaginal cancer may not manifest itself with any symptoms. However, as it develops further, there may be signs and symptoms like:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after intercourse or after menopause
- Watery discharge, could be foul smelling
- A lump in the vagina
- Frequent and painful urination
- Pelvic pain
- Pain or bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal lump or mass
- 1. To confirm the diagnosis
- Doctor will usually do a vaginal examination (internal examination) if you have symptoms that may possibly be like cancer.
- If she sees an abnormal area in the vagina a small biopsy will be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
- 2. Assessing the extent and spread
- Further tests may be advised to assess if the cancer has spread to other organs such as, an ultrasound scan, a CT scan, PET CT an MRI scan, a chest X-ray, blood tests or other tests.
- This assessment is called staging of the cancer, done to asses the extent of the spread and to know the stage.
Surgery will be offered depending on your stage.
- Partial vaginectomy – removing only the part of the vagina
- Radical vaginectomy – removing whole vagina and pelvic lymph nodes, with or without reconstruction of the vagian
- Radical vaginectomy and radical hysterectomy – removing whole of the vagina, womb, neck of the womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic lymph nodes
- Pelvic exoneration – removing whole of vagina and surrounding tissue, including the bladder and/or rectum (motion passing passage).
In some cases radiation and or chemotherapy may be required, depending on your stage.
- Radiation is a machine, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and stop their growth.
- There are two ways of having radiation treatments:
- Brachytherapy: You get radiation through your vagina.
- External beam radiation therapy: radiation is given from above your tummy.
- In chemotherapy treatment drugs are used to kill or slow the growth of cancerous cells. It’s usually given through an IV injection.
- You will be told that you need chemo with radiation; this type of treatment is called chemoradiation.
- Adding chemo during radiation makes the radiation to be more effective. You might also get only chemotherapy treatment if your cancer has spread to other organs.
- You should strictly follow-up with your doctor as per their advice.
- In addition to receiving treatment for cervical cancer your success of treatment will depend only when you have regular follow-up.