Most cancerous vaginal tumors occur when another cancer, such as cervical or uterine cancer, spreads. This is called secondary vaginal cancer. Primary vaginal cancer, which starts growing in the vagina, is very rare.
Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during the first three months of pregnancy are at increased risk for developing adenocarcinoma (a type of cancer that begins growing in glandular tissue).
Vaginal Cancer Symptoms
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Painless vaginal bleeding and discharge
- Pain in the pelvis or vagina
Diagnosis and Treatment of Vaginal Cancer
First, your doctor will take your complete medical history and perform a comprehensive physical examination. Your doctor will examine your uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina for any abnormalities. He or she will also take a Pap smear.
In patients with no symptoms, the cancer may be found during a routine pelvic examination and Pap smear. If a Pap smear is abnormal, but the health care provider cannot see problems with the vagina during a pelvic exam, a colposcopy may be done. A colposcopy is a painless procedure in which your doctor uses a lighted microscope to view your cervix.
If your doctor confirms that the mass is cancerous, you will need more tests to find out how far the cancer has spread. A gynecologic oncologist may perform:
- Cystoscopy: Using a lighted tube to check the inside surface of the bladder
- Proctoscopy: Visual inspection of the rectum using a lighted tube
- Pelvic examination using anesthesia: A more thorough exam which can better see how the cancer has spread
- Chest X-ray
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Treatment options include:
- Radiation: If the tumor is cervical cancer that has spread to the vagina, then both radiation and chemotherapy are used.
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237