Vaginal Cancer

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.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.