Vaginal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vaginal cancel is uncommon. It is a disease in which cancer cells form in the vagina. It occurs most often in women over the age of fifty, although it can strike at any age, even during infancy. If found at an early stage, however, it can be treated. The most common treatment is surgery, or surgery combined with pelvic radiation.

There are two types of vaginal cancer. They are Squamous cell carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is most widespread and the most common type of vaginal cancer found in women over the age of sixty. On the other hand, Adenocarcinoma is found in the inside layer of the vagina and is mostly detected in women below the age of thirty.

Causes of Vaginal Cancer

There is no single cause of vaginal cancer; instead there are certain risk factors that are considered to be the main causes of vaginal cancer. Age and exposure to the drug DES before birth increase the chances of vaginal cancer in women. Risk factors include the following:

Being sixty years of age and above.

Being exposed to DES when in the mother’s womb.

HVP infection.

Presence of abnormal cells in the cervix.

Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer

Common symptoms of vaginal cancer include the following:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Prepubertal occurrences.

Continuous urination.

Pain during sexual intercourse.

Pain in the pelvic area.

Postcoital occurrences.

Postmenopause occurrences.

Lumps in the vagina.

Continuous urination can be one of the main causes of vaginal cancer. This problem should be taken very seriously and one should consult a doctor immediately to determine the cause. Also, if the pain in the pelvic area continues for 3 months or more, it is considered chronic; any less than this duration is considered to be acute. Furthermore, abnormal vaginal discharges should be taken very seriously as this can be a symptom of vaginal cancer.

Treatment of Vaginal Cancer

There are different types of treatment for vaginal cancer. Some of the treatments are standard treatments, and some of them are currently being tested in clinical trials. Choosing the appropriate type of treatment involves the patient, doctor, family, and a team of heath care professionals.

The three types of standard treatment are as follows:

Surgery: This is the most common treatment for patients with vaginal cancer. Such treatment involves the following surgical procedures:

Laser surgery.

Wide local excision.

Vaginectomy.

Total hysterectomy.

Lymphadenectomy

Pelvic exenteration.

Radiation therapy: This is a vaginal cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Basically, there are two types of radiation therapy: external radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy. In external radiation therapy, a machine outside the body is used to send radiation towards the cancer, whereas in internal radiation therapy, a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds and wires is used and is placed directly into the cancer.

Chemotherapy: This uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing them or by stopping them from dividing. When it is directly placed into an organ, the drugs affect the cancer cells in that particular area.

Radiosensitizers are a type of vaginal cancer treatment used in clinical trials. They make the tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. If radiation therapy is combined with radiosensitizers, they may kill more tumor cells.

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