Vaginal cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the vagina, which is the area that the cervix and uterus connect. This can cause pain and bleeding.
Vaginal cancer often happens when the cancer cells spread to the body.
A growing number of women are at risk of developing vaginal cancer. Women who have a weakened immune system, such as women who have HIV/AIDS, are at a higher risk.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding
- An unusual odor or change in vaginal odor
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- Pain in the pelvis or lower back
- Pain during urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Bladder pain
- Pain in the vagina
- Pain or tenderness after sex
Diagnosis of vaginal cancer
There are several methods used to diagnose vaginal cancer.
The most common method for diagnosing vaginal cancer is a biopsy. During the biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
Other tests may be used to find out if a woman has cancer. These include:
- Blood tests. These tests can be used to check the levels of certain hormones in the blood.
- CT scan or PET scan. These tests may be used to look at the lymph nodes in the pelvis.
- MRI scan. This is a test that uses a strong magnetic field and a computer to make detailed pictures of organs and structures in the body.
- Cystoscopy. This is a test that uses a small camera to look inside the urethra and bladder.
- Laparoscopy. This is a test that uses a small camera to look inside the pelvis.
Treatment of vaginal cancer
The treatment for vaginal cancer depends on several different factors, including:
- The type of cancer
- The stage of the cancer
- The age of the woman
- Whether the cancer is in the vagina or the uterus
- Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
- The woman’s overall health and other medical conditions
Vaginal cancer is often treated with radiation therapy. This can be done on an outpatient basis.
Radiation therapy can also be done with pelvic surgery. For example, a surgeon may remove the cancer or part of the vagina.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat vaginal cancer. This treatment is often given along with radiation therapy.
A doctor may recommend surgery to remove the vulva. This is especially helpful if the cancer has spread to the skin.
Outlook of vaginal cancer
Most women with vaginal cancer can still have children.
Even with treatment, vaginal cancer can be difficult to treat. The prognosis for women with vaginal cancer depends on several factors, including:
- The type and stage of the cancer
- The woman’s overall health
- Her age
- The woman’s age at the time of diagnosis
- The woman’s response to treatment (how well the cancer responds to treatment)
Survival rates and outlook for vaginal cancer in women who are treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy are better than those who receive other treatments.
Living with vaginal cancer
Women with vaginal cancer should follow the doctor’s treatment plan closely.
Women should also be aware of possible side effects and watch for symptoms of vaginal cancer, such as:
- Bleeding between periods
- An unusual smell
- Bleeding during sex
- Painful sex
- Pain in the vagina, pelvis, or lower back
- Pain after sex
- Pain in other areas of the body
Women should report any vaginal bleeding or unusual vaginal odor to their doctor. These are signs of vaginal cancer.
Women should also report any unusual vaginal discharge or vaginal bleeding to their doctor. These are signs of vaginal cancer.
It is important to be aware of the signs of vaginal cancer and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Vaginal cancer can be life-threatening. Women who are diagnosed with vaginal cancer should follow up with their doctor.
When to seek help?
Women who have vaginal cancer should seek help right away if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge
- A lump in the vagina
- Painful urination
- Pain in a specific area of the body
Women should also seek help right away if they have any of the following signs:
- A change in the color or consistency of vaginal discharge or discharge that has an unusual odor
- Vaginal bleeding during or after sex
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods
- Abdominal pain
- Pain, pressure, or a sudden lump in the abdomen
- Pain or a sudden lump in the vagina
- Pain in a joint in the pelvic area
Causes and risk factors
The exact cause of vaginal cancer is not known.
Women are at a slightly higher risk of developing vaginal cancer compared with other women. This may be due to certain conditions, including:
- A weakened immune system
- A history of certain STDs, including HIV
- Having a history of the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Having a history of abnormal cell changes, which are caused by HPV infection
- Having a history of certain infections, such as gonorrhea
Women with a weakened immune system are also at a higher risk of developing other kinds of cancer. This includes cancers such as:
- Cervical cancer, which is a cancer of the cervix
- Vulvar cancer, which is a cancer of the vulva
- Vaginal cancer, which is a cancer of the vagina
Risk factors for developing vaginal cancer
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer. These include:
- Having a weakened immune system
- Being older than 50 years
- Having a history or current diagnosis of HIV/AIDS
Vaginal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the vagina, which is the area that the cervix and uterus connect. This can cause pain and bleeding.
Vaginal cancer is most often caused by HPV infection. Other risk factors for developing the cancer include having a weakened immune system and having a family history of cancer.
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