Vaginal cancer is a rare condition where cancerous cells form in the vagina. It usually occurs in the cells in the lining of the vagina, also known as the birth canal. Please read on to find out the symptoms of this cancer and its treatment.
Overview of Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer can occur primarily or as a result of spread from other cancers. Risk factors for developing vaginal cancer include increasing in age (over 60 years), having HPV infection, smoking, and having numerous sexual partners. Moreover, it is possible to develop this cancer if you’ve had cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia (abnormal cells in the cervix). Notably, it can be cured when detected early. Unfortunately, if it spreads beyond the vagina, and to other parts like the lungs, bones, and liver, treating it is extremely difficult. Before developing vaginal cancer, there is a precancerous phase in many cases I.e. vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) which if detected can prevent development of cancer if treated.
The most frequently encountered type is :
Squamous cell carcinoma; This starts in the flat cells lining the vagina (squamous cells.) It is the most common type of vaginal cancer, accounting for about 90% of the cases.
Uncommon types include
- Adenocarcinoma; This type begins in the gland cells in the vagina, and is usually common in women above 50 years old.
- Melanoma; It starts from the melanocytes, the cells that give the skin its color. They are also extremely rare.
- Sarcoma; This begins in the connective and muscle tissues in the vaginal wall. They are very rare
Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
Wem with early vaginal cancers may not have any signs and symptoms. However, any woman in Singapore can experience the following symptoms as vaginal cancer progresses;
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, either after intercourse or after menopause
- Pelvic pain
- Lump in the vagina
- Vaginal discharge (can be bloody, watery, or have a foul smell)
Therefore, if you experience any of the above symptoms, we recommend you see a doctor in Singapore and follow the directions given. Moreover, since cancer doesn’t always result in symptoms, why not go for regular pelvic exams and pap smears? Such routine screening may allow your gynecologist to detect the condition early enough and address it sooner.
Treatment of Vaginal Cancer
As earlier noted, when Singapore doctors diagnose you early enough that you have vaginal cancer, it is easier to administer treatment. Also, the treatment administered depends on the type of vaginal cancer, its stage and your age. Below are the various treatment options;
The different surgeries that may be performed are;
- Vaginectomy; removal of whole or part of the vagina depending on the tumor’s location, size, and how far it has spread.
- Wide local excision; removal of the tumor together with healthy tissues in its surrounding.
- Pelvic exenteration; removal of various organs from the pelvis (bladder, uterus, colon, cervix among others), especially if the cancer is recurring.
This option uses target energy beams to either destroy the cancer cells or prevent them from dividing. It can be internal (sealed wires with the radioactive material placed inside the vagina near the tumor) or external (use of a machine directing the beams of high-energy radiation outside the body).
This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t effective when used alone. Thus, it must be used alongside radiation. Also, the tumors treated with chemotherapy may later return.
Vaginal cancer is a rare form of cancer. It emerges from the birth canal. Unfortunately, it is not easy to detect its symptoms. However, you can go for routine checkups from a gynecologist to identify cancer sooner and begin treatment if you have the condition.