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Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer usually caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and may sometimes be detected when the patient is being investigated for abnormal Pap smear or HPV test results.
Similar to cervical cancer, there is a pre-cancerous stage to vaginal cancer which can be treated with conservative surgery.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer include abnormal discharge and bleeding especially after intercourse and out of cycle.
If you do present symptoms, your doctor will also take your medical history and recommend a Pap smear to check for any abnormal cells in the vagina.
Other diagnostic procedures may include:
Based on the results of diagnostic tests, the doctor will decide the stage of cancer and the course of treatment:
Treatment of vaginal cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the main treatments for vaginal cancer.
If there are small tumours limited to the surface of the vagina, they may be removed along with a small part of the surrounding normal tissue to ensure all the cancer cells have been resected.
This utilises high-energy radiations such as X-rays to destroy cancer cells. It can be administered either externally or internally. External radiation is more commonly delivered to treat vaginal cancer. In case of early-stage vaginal cancer, only internal radiation may be required.
Radiation therapy may sometimes lead to side effects such as:
It is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually used in conjunction with radiotherapy to increase the effectiveness of radiation.
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