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Vaginal Cancer Fact Sheet

From the GYN Cancer Articles List

Vaginal Cancer Fact SheetVaginal Cancer


Description
Vaginal cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the vagina. This form of cancer is very rare, but there are several types of vaginal cancer:
  • Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma: squamous cells line the surface of the vagina. Cellular changes over a period of years could become a cancerous issue. This type of cancer normally exists near the cervix. About 70% of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Vaginal adenocarcinoma: this type of cancer is known as adenocarcinoma and usually develops in women over 50. This cancer begins in the gland cells and comprise about 15% of vaginal cancer cases.
  • Vaginal melanoma: vaginal cancers that develop in the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) are known as melanomas. These usually develop in the lower or outer portion of the vagina. Only about 9% of cases are melanomas.
  • Vaginal sarcoma: cancer beginning in the connective tissue, muscle, or bone is known as sarcoma. This can develop deep in the vaginal wall. With only up to 4% of vaginal cancer cases in this category, it is the rarest form of vaginal cancer.

Risk Factors and Prevention
Most cases of vaginal cancer occur in women over 60. Less than 15% of women under 40 will be diagnosed with this type of cancer. Daughters of women who used DES (diethylstilbestrol), the drug given during the 1950s to prevent miscarriages, may have a slightly higher risk of vaginal cancer. Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) can also increase the risk of vaginal cancer. Other risk factors include having cervical cancer or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Use of alcohol and cigarettes may also increase the risk of vaginal cancer. Preventive steps can include limiting sexual partners, being vaccinated for HPV, limiting alcohol intake, stopping smoking, and undergoing regular pelvic exams.

Symptoms
In it earliest stages, vaginal cancer may not exhibit symptoms. However, it could be detected during a routine Pap test or pelvic exam. As the cancer develops, women may experience bleeding or discharge, pain with intercourse, pelvic pain, and/or a vaginal lump. Bleeding after menopause, painful urination, and constipation may also be symptoms.

Prognosis
Though this type of cancer is rare, it has a high cure rate when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, early stages of this cancer may be asymptomatic. Vaginal cancer that has spread outside the vagina can be difficult to treat.

Treatment
Early stage vaginal cancer limited to the surface of the vagina may be excised. Laser surgery or topical therapy may also be options at this stage. For more invasive cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or invasive surgery may be necessary. Later stages may require not only the removal of the vagina, but also the removal of other pelvic organs.


Information complied by staff of HysterSisters.com using data from the Mayo Clinic, NIH, American Cancer Society, and WebMD websites. This content was written by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

06-11-2013 - 04:28 PM


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