Alternative NamesVaginal tumors, Cancer - vagina, Tumor - vaginal
What is Vaginal cancer
Vaginal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the vagina. It is a problem that is more common in women 60 and older. Women with early-stage vaginal cancer have the best chance for a cure. Vaginal cancer that spreads beyond the vagina is much more difficult to treat.
Signs and symptoms
In the early stages vaginal cancer may have no signs or symptoms. But in some time it may cause the following signs and symptoms:
- unusual vaginal bleeding, for example, after intercourse or after menopause;
- watery vaginal discharge;
- a lump or mass in your vagina;
- painful urination;
- pelvic pain.
Vaginal cancer may spread (metastasize) to distant areas of your body, such as your lungs, liver and pelvic bones.
In general, cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that turns normal cells into abnormal cells. Cancer cells grow and multiply out of control and they do not die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). There are some possible risk factors for vaginal cancer:
- a previous history of cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) – non-cancerous cells that can sometimes become cancerous;
- a history of reproductive cancers, such as cervical cancer or vulval cancer;
- your age – usually vaginal cancer occurs in women who are over 60;
- having HIV;
- having multiple sexual partners;
- starting having sex at an earlier age;
- unprotected sex (other sexually transmitted diseases can increase vaginal abnormal activity).
The best way how to reduce the risk factor for developing vaginal cancer is to avoid being infected with HPV. Also you should limit the amount of sexual partners. A Pap smear may also be able to find some signs of vaginal cancer before symptoms appear. If you smoke you should quit because smoking increases the risk of vaginal cancer.
Treatment depends on the stage, location and type of cancer. It can be the following:
- surgery consists of deleting the cancerous portion.
- radiation therapy can be administered externally or internally. It uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells.
- chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells.
- clinical trials. New treatment methods are permanently being tested for effective vaginal cancer treatment. But these are usually only administered for late stages of cancer.