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:
- Pelvic Exam This test involves feeling the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum to find any abnormality in their shape or size.
- Pap Smear As part of the pelvic exam, your doctor may conduct a Pap smear. He or she will gently scrape the outside of the cervix and vagina with a small spatula and brush in order to pick up cells, which then can be analyzed for any abnormalities. Some pressure may be felt, but usually no pain.
- Coloscopy If any abnormal cells are found during your Pap smear, your doctor may recommend a coloscopy. During this exam, your doctor will use a colposcope, which is a small microscope, to see your vagina in more detail. This is an outpatient procedure that takes about 10 to 15 minutes and is usually not painful, though may be a little uncomfortable.
- Biopsy If any abnormal cells are found during your Pap smear, your doctor will then need to conduct a biopsy. During this procedure, a small sample of tissue is removed from the vagina and then examined under a microscope for any cancer cells.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan This imaging test takes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are created by a computer, which is linked to an X-ray machine. A special dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) This is a painless, non-invasive procedure that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to construct pictures of the body. Any imaging plane, or "slice," can be projected, stored in a computer or printed on film. MRI can easily be performed through clothing and bones.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.