Vaginal or birth canal tumors may be rare, but can spread from site of origin to the other parts of the body. Vagina connects the external genitalia with the uterus; a cancer in this location occurs mostly in the cells lining the surface of vagina. If diagnosed early by Gynecologist in Islamabad, it has good chances of complete remission. Read on to know more about vaginal cancer, its causes and treatment options.
What are the types of vaginal cancer?
The two most common types of vaginal cancers include:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: this tumor involves the flat, thin cells of the vaginal wall. The spread of this tumor is slow, but usually involves the regions around the vagina. Rarely, it metastasizes to the lungs, bones and the liver. This is commoner of the two vaginal cancers.
- Adenocarcinoma: if the cancer begins in the glandular cells of the vagina, the tumor is adenocarcinoma. This type of tumor is more likely to involve the lymph nodes and release fluids like mucus. The rate of spread of this cancer is higher in comparison to squamous cell carcinoma. One type of adenocarcinoma is linked to the use of diethylstilbestrol before birth by the mother of the patient.
What are the causes and risk factors of vaginal cancer?
The causes and risk factors of vaginal cancer include:
- Infection with HPV—human papilloma virus. This is the commonest cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina.
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol before birth
- Previous history of cancer or hysterectomy
What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?
Vaginalcancer presents with unobtrusive symptoms and is mostly diagnosed quite late in the stage of disease—particularly for women who donot regularly get pap smears. The symptoms include: vaginal bleeding—which is an alarming sign in postmenopausal women, pain during intercourse, painful urination, abnormal vaginal discharge, pelvic pain and constipation if the tumor bulges into the rectum.
What are the stages of vaginal cancer?
Staging of the cancer is done by a healthcare provider through imaging techniques and the examination of the patient. Staging of the cancer helps to design the treatment regimen of the patient. The tumor may be classified as:
- Stage I:if the tumor is confined to the wall of vagina
- Stage II: if the tumor has spread to the tissues surrounding the vagina
- Stage III: when there is involvement of the pelvic wall
- Stage IV-a: when the spread of tumor has reached the lining of rectum or bladder
- Stage IV-b: when there is metastasis to other organs like lungs or bones
What is the treatment for vaginal cancer?
The stage of the tumor determines the treatment. Generally, vaginal cancer is treated through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Surgery involves the removal of the vagina, cervix and the uterus. Surgery improves the chances of survival and can be done before or after the radio- and chemo-therapy, depending on the recommendation of the healthcare provider.
Radiation therapy involves the use of x-rays or other forms of high-powered radiation, to kill the cancer cells. The radioactive substance may be inserted in the body to treat the cancer, or targeted therapy through a machine may be performed. Because of the proximity to the ovaries, radiation therapy can result in premature menopause, and symptoms like hot flashes, cessation of menstruation and vaginal dryness.
Chemotherapy uses medication to kill the cancerous cells. The dose of the chemotherapeutic agents is adjusted by experts like Best Gynecologist in Lahore depending on the type and size of vaginal cancer. These medications may be taken orally, or injected into the vein. As with all chemotherapeutic agents, the side effects are plenty—including hair loss, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and premature menopause.