The vagina is the birth canal. Cancer of the vagina is a very rare kind of cancer in women.
What are the most common risk factors for uterine cancer?
Half of women affected are older than 60, with most between ages 50 and 70. A history of exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a fetus or cervical cancer or precancerous conditions
or uterine prolapse is a risk factor. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has been associated with vaginal cancer. Problems like vaginal adenosis or vaginal irritation raises vaginal cancer risks.
What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?
The symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems so consult your physician for diagnosis. The following are the most common symptoms, bloody discharge and bleeding during sexual intercourse or bleeding from the vagina after the menopause.
How is vaginal cancer diagnosed?
Vaginal cancer can be detected visually, using a magnifying instrument called a colposcope.
A biopsy is always necessary to confirm the diagnosis, and then further tests such as scans can also be used to determine the extent to which the cancer has already spread.
How can vaginal cancer be prevented?
- Avoid being infected with HPV, a sexually transmitted virus.
- Sexual partner should always wear a condom correctly during intercourse. Recent research shows that condoms provide some protection against HPV.
- Limit the amount of sexual partners.
- Pap smear may also be able to detect some cases of vaginal cancer before symptoms are experienced so attend regular gynecological checkups and Pap smear.
How to treat vaginal cancer?
The treatment depends upon whether the cancer has spread to involve other tissues in the pelvis or not. It also depends on the general health of the patient and permission for operations.
- laser surgery to remove the cancer, including LEEP (loop electro excision procedure)
- local excision to remove the cancer
- (partial) vaginectomy to remove the vagina
- Chemotherapy – the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells.
- Radiotherapy is aimed at destroying tumor cells that the gynecologist cannot see.