Vaginal Cancer

Incidence

Vaginal cancer comprises approximately three percent of all malignant neoplasms of the female genital tract. Approximately 2,900 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States, with about 800 deaths.

Signs and Symptoms

When vaginal cancer causes symptoms, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding from the vagina. Other signs or symptoms often caused by vaginal cancer may include one or more of the following:

  • Fluid coming out of the vagina that is watery, bloody, or bad-smelling
  • Pain when urinating, blood in the urine, or feeling the need to urinate often
  • Trouble having bowel movements, black-colored bowel movements, or feeling the need to have a bowel movement when your bowels are empty

These symptoms can be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.

Stages

Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out how far the cancer has spread.

Vaginal cancer's stage is based on:

  • Size and extension of the tumor
  • Whether there are signs that the cancer has regional lymph node metastasis or spread to other organs on diagnostic imaging tests

Vaginal cancer stages range from stage I (tumor confined to the vagina) to stage IVB (distant metastasis including pelvic lymph node metastasis). In general, lower stage cancers are less aggressive and require less treatment than do higher stage cancers.

Treatments for Vaginal Cancer

The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the stage of your cancer, how big the cancer is, and where it is in your vagina. Your treatment will also depend on your age, other medical problems, and whether you might want to get pregnant in the future.

Treatment for vaginal cancer includes 1 or more of following:

  • Surgery – Vaginal cancer is treated with surgery when the tumor has not yet grown into the deeper tissues surrounding the vagina.
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells. Radiation can be given from a machine that is outside the body. Other times, internal radiation is delivered vaginally.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication used to treat and prevent recurrence of cancer by killing cancer cells. Women will often be treated with chemotherapy at the same time as radiation therapy to make the radiation more effective.

Source: The information on this page comes directly from articles on UpToDate medical database.