Vaginal cancer is a rare kind of cancer. It, as the name suggests, starts in vagina.
Some of the several types of vaginal cancer are:
- Squamous cell: Cancer starts in the vaginal lining and develops gradually. This is the most commonly found form of vaginal cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma: This cancer begins in the vaginal gland cells. Women over 50 are more likely to develop this cancer.
- Melanoma: This starts from the cells that give our skin colour.
- Sarcoma: It starts in the walls of the vagina.
SymptomsBleeding after menopause, after or during sex, between menstrual cycles are the most common symptoms of vaginal cancer.
Other symptoms include:
- watery vaginal discharge
- pain during urination
- pelvic pain
In some cases, vaginal cancer has no symptoms. In these cases, it may be discovered during a routine pelvic exam.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): This is an STD and the most common cause of vaginal cancer.
- Previous cervical cancer: HPV can also cause this.
Risk factors for vaginal cancer are:
- having had a previous hysterectomy
- age of more than 60
- having HIV
- early exposure to HPV through sexual activities.
Stages tell you how far the cancer has extended. There are four main stages and one precancerous stage of vaginal cancer:
- Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN). It is not a cancer. It is the cells still growing the vaginal lining.
- Stage 1. Cancer only in the vaginal wall.
- Stage 2. Cancer spreads to the tissue next to the vagina.
- Stage 3. Cancer spreading into the pelvis and pelvic wall.
- Stage 4. Stage 4 is divided into two substages:
- 4A: cancer spreads to the bladder and/or rectum.
- 4B: cancer spreads to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, etc.
- Stage 1 of vaginal cancer can be treated by surgically removing the tumor and a part of the healthy tissues around it, which is followed by radiotherapy.
- Radiotherapy is the most commonly used treatment in all stages of vaginal cancer. In some cases, you might have chemotherapy to support the radiotherapy.
- After Radiotherapy, surgery is recommended. Depending on the size, location, and margins of your tumor, the doctors might remove:
only the tumor and a small area of healthy tissue around it
most of your reproductive or pelvic organs
part or all of the vagina