Vaginal Cancer

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.

 

Symptoms

Bleeding 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
  • fistulas

In some cases, vaginal cancer has no symptoms. In these cases, it may be discovered during a routine pelvic exam.

Causes

  • 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
  • smoking
  • age of more than 60
  • having HIV
  • early exposure to HPV through sexual activities.

Staging

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:
    1. 4A: cancer spreads to the bladder and/or rectum.
    2. 4B: cancer spreads to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, etc.

Treatment

  •  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

  Stage 4B cancer is usually not curable, but treatment can at least relieve symptoms.