A vaginal tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the vagina, a female reproductive organ.
Primary vaginal cancer is rare. Most primary vaginal cancers start in skin cells called squamous cells. This cancer is known as squamous cell cancer. The other types are adenocarcinoma, melanoma, and sarcoma.
The cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina is unknown. But a history of cervical cancer is common in women with squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina.
Most women with squamous cell cancer of the vagina are over 50.
Adenocarcinoma of the vagina usually affects younger women. The average age at which this cancer is diagnosed is 19. Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages during the first 3 months of pregnancy are more likely to develop vaginal adenocarcinoma.
Sarcoma of the vagina is a rare cancer that mainly occurs in infancy and early childhood.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer can include any of the following:
Some women have no symptoms.
In patients with no symptoms, the cancer may be found during a routine pelvic exam and Pap smear.
Other tests to diagnose vaginal tumors include:
Other tests that may be done include:
Treatment of vaginal cancer depends on the type of cancer and how far the disease has spread.
Surgery is sometimes used to remove the cancer. But most patients are treated with radiation. If the tumor is cervical cancer that has spread to the vagina, then radiation and chemotherapy are both given.
Sarcoma may be treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems.
How well patients with vaginal cancer do depends on the stage of disease and the specific type of tumor.
Vaginal cancer may spread to other areas of the body. Complications can occur from radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you notice bleeding after intercourse or have persistent vaginal bleeding or discharge.
There are no definite ways to prevent this cancer. You can increase your chance of early detection by getting regular yearly pelvic examinations and Pap smears.
Vaginal cancer; Cancer - vagina; Tumor - vaginal
Bodurka DC, Frumovitz M. Malignant diseases of the vagina: intraepithelial neoplasia, carcinoma, sarcoma In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 31.
Jhingran A, Russell AH, Seiden MV, et al. Cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 87.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Vaginal Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: March 12, 2014. Available at: http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/vaginal/HealthProfessional. Accessed: March 11, 2014.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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