Vaginal cancer : Are you at risk ?
Vaginal cancer is a rare form of cancer. It is more common in women 60 years or over. It occurs in the vagina , usually the cells that line the surface of the vaginal known as birth canal. Women with early stages of this cancer have the best chance for a cure.
The exact cause of this cancer is unknown. However, it occurs when healthy cells acquire mutations and develop into abnormal cells. There are different types of vaginal cancer.
Who is at risk of vaginal cancer ?
Women at risk of this type of cancer include :
- being 60 years or old
- been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while in your mother’s womb. In the 1950s, this drug was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage
- having human papilloma virus HPV
- having a history of abnormal cells in the uterus or uterine cancer
- having a history of abnormal cells in the cervix or cervical cancer
- have had a hysterectomy for health problems that affect the uterus.
What are the signs or symptoms vaginal cancer ?
Early stages may not cause symptoms, however as the disease progresses it may cause symptoms such as
- a lump or mass in the vaginal
- unusual vagina bleeding
- watery vaginal discharge
- pelvic pain
- difficulty urinating
See your doctor if you have any form of abnormal vaginal bleeding .
How would i know that i have vaginal cancer ?
A regular pelvic exam can be used to detect this cancer even before symptoms start showing.
A pap smear test used to screen for cervical cancer can sometimes detect vaginal cancer cells.
If your doctor suspects something is wrong, he may do a biopsy of vaginal tissues to check for cancer cells.
Imaging tests such as X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) can be used to check the stage of the cancer.
How is vaginal cancer treated ?
Treatment depends on factors such as the kind of vaginal cancer as well as the stage. Treatment usually involves surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Can vaginal cancer be prevented ?
There is no way to prevent vaginal cancer. You can reduce your risk by doing the following :
- undergoing regular pelvic exam and pap smear
- avoid smoking
- ask your doctor if the HPV vaccine is appropriate for you. It may reduce HPV related infections
Vaginal cancer treatment. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/vaginal-cancer-treatment-patient-information-nci-pdq-general-information-about-vaginal-cancer. Accessed February 12, 2016
Vaginal cancer . American Association. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/vaginalcancer/detailedguide/vaginal-cancer-what-is-vaginal-cancer. Accessed February 12, 2016