Vaginal cancer is a rare disease and makes up less than 3 percent of all gynecological cancers. There are four different types of vaginal cancer, including:
It is important to know that even if you have had a hysterectomy, you can still develop vaginal cancer.
As with many cancers, the exact cause of vaginal cancer is not known for sure. However, some factors may increase a woman's risk for the disease, including:
In addition, research has shown that young women whose mothers took a drug known as diethylstilbestrol (DES) are at a higher risk for developing the disease. The drug DES was given to pregnant women between 1945 and 1970 to prevent them from having miscarriages.
In some cases, vaginal cancer may not cause any symptoms and is detected by an abnormal Pap smear. However, some common symptoms of the condition include:
If you are experiencing any symptoms of vaginal cancer or other problems related to your vagina, you should visit a doctor immediately for a definite diagnosis.
Your doctor will begin by asking about any symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as reviewing your medical history and conducting a thorough physical exam. To determine the cause of your symptoms, the following tests may be performed:
Treatment for vaginal cancer typically involves surgery, radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy. With surgery, some patients may need skin grafts and plastic surgery to make an artificial vagina. Some patients may need more than one type of treatment in combination.
At UCSF Medical Center, a team of cancer specialists and plastic surgeons work together to design the most effective treatment plan for your condition.
Surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of vaginal cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.